It’s interesting how some words are so closely connected to others. For instance, the title of this blog is “Premeditated” - what’s the next word that came to your mind? I would bet a slice of pie from The Wooden Spoon that it was “Murder” (Tip: Always bet pie. Win or lose: you get to eat pie). What might surprise you, is that I want to talk about forgiveness.
Have you ever prepared to walk into a conversation where you knew something was about to be said or done that was going to be offensive to you? Maybe it was a meeting with a client or boss, or it could be with a spouse or with your parents. These conversations happen all the time in our friendships too. We all just want to get along, but there seems to be a persistent tension in relationships, doesn’t there?
We think about forgiveness mostly in terms of things that have happened to us in the past. But we have to get real and understand that there are still offenses to come. People are going to say and do things that are hurtful, demeaning, and destructive. We talk about being proactive instead of reactive in other areas of our lives, so what would that look like in the area of forgiveness?
A few years back, I was preparing to walk into a really difficult conversation. This person was someone I wanted to have a healthy relationship with, but was struggling to get there. I had set up a time to visit with him, and in my preparation, I began to pray that God would speak to my prideful thoughts. I wanted to put him in his place. I wanted to tell him off. I got the sense that if God has His way with how I was about to handle things, He would steer me another direction.
The day before I was to meet with this person, I came across Romans 5:8 and it changed my perspective on things. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Christ set the bar for premeditated forgiveness. Knowing all things, even my deepest sins, He still loved me and forgave me to the point of giving His life on the cross.
There is a song my family used to sing on the show that came to mind as I was writing this blog. The song is called, “When He was on the Cross, I was on His Mind.” It goes like this:
Before you or I ever took breath or even sinned, Christ paid the price for our sin. There is nothing I can do to add to what He did. He paid the price.
I felt compelled that this very same level of forgiveness is what He was calling me to. This applies to every relationship I have. Even in the healthiest relationships I have, there has been hurt and opportunities for offense. Relationships are challenging! There is nothing easy about it unless you never let them get beyond surface level, which just leaves us unfulfilled. We were made for authentic relationship with each other. And yet, where Christ says that He desires for us to experience life to the fullest, the reality is that Satan longs to steal, kill and destroy.
One way Satan accomplishes this is by allowing the seed of offense to be planted. That offense is watered and nourished as we harbor resentment, withhold forgiveness, and plot retaliation.
Back to my story, I walked into that difficult conversation with a new attitude. I forgave him before he ever said a word to me. I asked that God would rightly place my heart so that I could enter into the conversation and not be offended. You know what happened? It took all of 15 seconds for him to say something that I wanted to be offended at! Haha! But something else happened. Because I had already forgiven him, I was able to move to the side and let the offense miss the target. I listened to what he had to say until he felt like he was understood. I asked some clarifying questions, asked forgiveness in an area that I was wrong, and asked how I could do better moving forward.
It was disarming. He threw out his best stuff and not one offense connected. By the end of the conversation, he realized that I wasn’t trying to put him in his place either, and we were able to have a mature conversation and come out on the other side a bit healthier than how we entered.
What would premeditated forgiveness look like for you and I? Think for a minute of the person who just is impossible to be around. Maybe they are constantly saying things that are hurtful, whether it’s intentional or they think it is acceptable. Donald Miller writes again, “The ones who impact the world the most are somehow able to turn the other cheek. It’s as though they believe so solidly in love, so robustly in forgiveness, they have the ability to forgive and even love those who attack them.”
My challenge to you today is to practice premeditated forgiveness. Make it incredibly hard for others to offend you. And by God’s grace, reflect the heart of Christ as you seek to grow in relationship with people.