The calendar is closing in on the holidays and in our house, with this time of year, comes the writing of the annual family Christmas letter.  Most years this task is a joy as I share God's handiwork in our lives with extended family and friends.  But this year...well, this year if I saw me sharing what life has been like on Oprah or one of those afternoon TV shows I'm not sure I would even believe me! 

 

Sometimes life packs such a wallop of dramatic surprises that words don't even begin to describe it -- and truth be told, maybe words shouldn't even try!  I cannot deny God's hand of blessing over our lives the past year, nor can I deny the reality that He has and is bringing us through some head-spinning whirlwinds. 

I wonder what your Christmas letter looks like this year -- was it an easy year or a hang-on-for-dear-life kind of year?  If you had a roller coaster kind of year, like me, we can take heart that we are not alone! 

Adam and Eve effectively lost their two sons when Cain's jealousy baited him to kill his younger brother Abel. Jealousy reared it's ugly headed again in Jacob's family when the older brothers grew tired of baby brother Joseph and sold him into slavery and lied to cover their deed by telling Dad that poor Joe had been killed by wild animals.  Moses married a woman of a different ethnicity and his two siblings pitched a public fit and tried to stir the people up against his leadership.  Devastation and drama! And that is only the beginning of the Bible's list of family sagas. If family drama isn't enough for you, the Bible is chocked full of all kinds of other examples of relational issues, persecution, stress and tension.

Interestingly, in two out of three of the family drama accounts above, forgiveness played a key role in handling the family drama.  And in all three accounts God handed justice out to the offending party. 

When Cain killed Abel, God spoke with Cain before the fatal decision, guiding him to understand how to beat down the temptation within him (Genesis 4:7).  Cain acted against God's counsel and took the life of his brother.  God banished Cain and put some kind of mark on him so that others wouldn't decided to enact their own justice and kill him. 

God elevated Joseph to a position of power second only to the Pharaoh and it was to Joseph that his brothers eventually bowed and pled for mercy. Joseph forgave his brothers (Genesis 50:19-21).  He declared that he was in no place to enact judgement upon them and spoke kindly to them. 

In Moses' family saga, Miriam bore the brunt of God's discipline (assuming that she was more the instigator behind the ruckus) and she turned leprous.  Moses prayed and begged God to heal her and have mercy on her -- an expression of love and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is an emotional and spiritual healing process that happens between you and God.  Reconciliation is a healing process that takes place between you and another person.  Sometimes we are not able to have the reconciliation we would wish for, but we are always called to forgive.  I define forgiveness with three "R" words.

Forgiveness is about Remembering!

We need to remember God's abundant grace and the forgiveness He has granted us in spite of our own sins. Think about how these verses point us to the truth that at the crux of forgiveness is a need to remember how we too are in need of God's grace and forgiveness- just like the person who offended us.

And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 (NASB)