Fortunately, the Lord did not leave me in that place!
I have since finished the book, and it was excellent. I hope to write a review of it soon. It is a book I would highly recommend, as I found it Scripture-saturated, honest, humble, challenging, convicting, and practical for all sorts of relationships.
One section I found particularly helpful was on forgiveness. The section begins by rooting us in the concept of how we were forgiven by God—how God by His own mercy forgave us our tremendous debt of sin. It goes on to discuss how our debt was absorbed by God—God Himself came to pay the price of it and He no longer holds it against us if Jesus is our Lord. A failure to forgive others is a failure to acknowledge the greatness of what God in Christ has done for us! Our failure to forgive also breeds bitterness that causes death in us and in others.
Tripp and Lane go on to explain how forgiveness for us is an ongoing process. We must continually choose to practice forgiveness in such a way that we are guarded against bitterness that can creep back up even after an offense has been forgiven.
The authors explain how forgiving is not forgetting:
Too often people say that the evidence of having truly forgiven someone is to forget what he has done to you. The passage that is often quoted is Jeremiah 31:34, where God says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more,” This verse, some say, is how we should forgive.
There are at least two problems with this understanding of forgiveness. First it is not realistic. Our minds don’t function this way, and our ability to remember is powerful. Trying to forget a sin someone has committed against you will only encourage you to remember it. It’s like being told not to think about a pink elephant. What did you do the moment you read that sentence? Completely erasing an offense from your memory is not realistic. Second, it is not biblical. The passage in Jeremiah does not say that God has amnesia when He looks at you. Our omniscient God does not forget anything! The word “remember” is not a “memory” word, but a “promise” word, a covenant word. God is promising that when we confess our sins, “I will not treat you as your sins deserve. Instead, I will forgive you.”
This is why forgiveness is both a past event and an ongoing process into the future. It is a past promise you keep in the future. When this is done, the memory of small offenses usually dissipates. Larger offenses probably will not…..But each individual can still practice Biblical forgiveness. They can make a promise and remain faithful to that promise over time. P. 97Tripp and Lane suggest that the failure to understand forgiveness as a past event and a promise for the future results in 1) doubts about whether we have actually forgiven someone because we erroneously think forgiving equals forgetting; and 2) we allow bitterness to creep in because we are unguarded about it since we think our forgiveness is over and done with. P.98
Another very helpful aspect of Tripp and Lane’s teaching on forgiveness was the concept that forgiveness has a “vertical” and “horizontal” dimension. They get this from Scripture.
Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Luke 17:3 says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him”
Tripp and Lane point out that these two Scriptures may appear contradictory. In the one, we are told to forgive regardless of whether our offender is repentant. In other, we are told forgive if our offender is repentant. Tripp and Lane suggest that these two verses are talking about two different aspects of forgiveness:
Mark 11:25 is talking about forgiveness as a heart attitude before God. The context is worship. When I consider someone’s sin as I stand before the Lord, I am called to have an attitude of forgiveness towards that person who sinned against me. This is non-negotiable. I do not have the right to withhold forgiveness and harbor bitterness in my heart. Luke 17:3, on the other hand, is talking about forgiveness as a horizontal transaction between me and the offender. This is often referred to as reconciliation. The point Luke 17:3 makes is that, while I am to have an attitude of forgiveness before the Lord, I can only grant forgiveness to the other person if he repents and admits he has sinned against me. Even if he never does this, I am called to maintain an attitude of forgiveness toward the offender. The vertical aspect of forgiveness is unconditional, but the horizontal aspect depends upon the offender admitting guilt and asking for forgiveness. P. 98-99This explanation was so helpful to me and helped me see the connection between these two passages of Scripture.
Next, Tripp and Lane explain that forgiveness is not the same as “peace at all costs”. They look at Matthew 18 for this, acknowledging that we are not called to sweep sin under the carpet. To the contrary, there is a time for confrontation with gentleness and humility. They emphasize the facts that “real love demands pursuit” and “life in the kingdom involves radical forgiveness”. Still, Tripp and Lane remind us of Romans 12:18, which says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” They point out that while we “strive for peace, there are limits involves when you pursue someone in love,” and at that point, Tripp and Lane remind us that sometimes confrontation, separation, involving church leaders, and involving the state is a necessary part of loving the offender. I think the key here is that our motive out to be love for the offender, recognizing that sincere love sometimes involves making difficult decisions that may not always be received well.
This was just a small glimpse of what I learned about forgiveness through the book, “Relationships: A Mess Worth Making”. I learned a lot more about relationships, love, how relationships are a tool of sanctification, and how relationships image the gospel and glorify God. This is a book I highly recommend for anyone in any kind of relationship where sin has reared its head (which is basically every significant human relationship).