How do I live a life of hospitality that looks a lot like discipleship when I don’t even like my neighbor? How can I be hospitable to someone who has wronged me or devastated someone I love? How do I free myself from the roots of bitterness that grow from un-forgiveness? Do I just resign myself to suppressing my feelings over being unjustly wronged? How do I release them to God?
I had some interesting conversations recently about the topic of forgiveness and I recalled the part of the 23rd Psalm where David says: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” I wondered how this applies to our lives when things go wrong and we are trying to live forgiveness and follow Christ’s example of unconditionally loving people who hurt us? How can God expect me to sit at the same table with an enemy?
It’s interesting how we perceive forgiveness as a box to be checked off on a list. Didn’t Jesus tell us in Matthew 18 that we needed to forgive at least 77 times? Check! Check! Check!... That’s a lot of check marks. Yet in practice we find it so difficult to make even one check mark when we are still wounded and desperately hurting from the sting of betrayal or attack.
Usually it is the people we trust the most in our inner circle of fellowship, friendship or family that have the power to hurt us the most deeply and they remain in our lives without resolution. The pain in our hearts makes us feel hypocritical and shame-filled at the same time we are trying to live like Jesus. We are told in Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you;” but the hurt done to us can keep us in the grip of toxic unforgiveness.
What does it really look like to live into forgiveness as a lifestyle? I came across a verse that asks the question in Psalms 15:1 “Lord, who can dwell in your tent?” And suddenly this verse came alive in a new way. What if forgiveness is like living in the tent of the Lord? Could this living in his tent be where his forgiveness flows from the Holy Spirit into our hearts and out into the world around us? Where the walls of the tent surround us with his protection, his love and his victory over sin? Acts 17:28a says: “For in him we live and move and have our being.” That gives me chills! How amazing is that concept?
Forgiveness is not a box to be checked. It is a living, breathing, flowing, changing, constantly adjusting way of living in Christ our whole life. This allows us to live fruitfully and victoriously even when hit by piercing pain. Forgiveness is not a feeling we generate. Forgiveness is where we place ourselves under God’s protection. Forgiveness is his essence that blooms and grows in our hearts and then extends outward. What a beautiful picture!
Verse 5 of Psalm 15 ends with: “Whoever does these things will never be shaken.” I suspect that God allows us to be shaken constantly by the challenge to forgive so that we will stay in his tent. Isn’t that what happened to Jesus? He didn’t get a free ride. It was the religious leaders who came to challenge him, hate him and plot to kill him. Before the cross Jesus prayed: “not my will but yours” to his Heavenly Father and then he got up and walked into the vulnerability of betrayal, rejection and death for the sake of all humanity.
Hospitality looks a lot like discipleship when we are living in the tent of the Lord’s forgiveness. Are you willing to be that transparent? In his tent healing will eventually come; justice will eventually be done, truth will eventually be told, pain will eventually lessen, grief will eventually subside; joy can be felt once again and forgiveness after betrayal can be experienced. Outside of this tent there is no hope.
If you are hurting from the sting of betrayal, I pray you are empowered to move forward with your life into forgiveness. Then when God prepares his table for us (the table that just happens to be in our home) in the presence our enemies; forgiveness will be both served and received. Making disciples, like hospitality sometimes starts with forgiveness. Following Jesus always starts with forgiveness.
Copyright © 2020 All Rights Reserved Rebecca Walker