How do you teach your children the concept of forgiveness? How do you teach them you can forgive and still take steps to protect yourself? How do you teach about forgiveness and keep them from heading straight back into the lion's den? How do we teach the concept of "hate the sin, but not the sinner"? Maybe the question really is, "How do I, as a parent, protect my children and teach them to forgive those out there who hurt them?"
These questions have been running through my head for the past week and led me to the Bible for some study on forgiveness. That is where we should always go when we have questions. The Bible is called the Living Word for a reason. God will lead us to the answers we need at just the right moment.
"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Matthew 6:12 (NIV) Every time we say the Lord's Prayer, we are asking God to forgive us just like we forgive others. OUCH!! Is that what we really want? Do we want God to forgive us like we forgive those in our lives? Do we want God to hold grudges like we do sometimes? Not forgiving only hurts you more. Forgiving doesn't mean jumping right back into the relationship or setting yourself up to be hurt again. Forgiving doesn't erase the consequences. What is does do is release us from carrying the burden of a grudge. It does relieve us of feeling like we need to "pay them back" and allowing God to be judge, not us. It relieves us of carrying around bitterness. Nobody really loves to be around someone who is bitter. It is making room in our hearts for love and joy and peace. It is recognizing that we are sinners and have received God's grace and want to pass it on. Grace is undeserved favor. We don't deserve God's forgiveness. Whether we feel like it or not, we are told to forgive others. Forgiveness is an action, not a feeling. It is what we are commanded to do.
"In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part." Matthew 6:14-15 (Message)
How can I as a parent teach about forgiveness? I can live it. I can talk about how I am forgiven by God and can show through my actions that I forgive others. I can teach by example. How do I protect them from future hurt? Not entirely possible. I need to help them learn God's principles and trust that He loves them and will care for them. I can teach them that forgiving doesn't mean forgetting (at least not to us humans) or setting yourself up to be hurt again. God gives us the ability to learn from the past and how to better protect ourselves in the future.
We can all practice living Romans 12: 17-21: "Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. 'I'll do the judging,' says God. 'I'll take care of it.' Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good." (Message)