4. Short-term Serious

Short-term Serious

Part 4 of the Spotlight series "Forgiveness is Passing" 
What is something that was really useful to you, but you have now “grown out of” needing/using?

Once you've broken the ice, read this Spotlight's focus:
It is by faith, and really only by faith, that a person can meaningfully interact with God while here on Earth. Unfortunately, there are a lot of forces that fight against faith and nobody fully trusts in God. For this reason, there is forgiveness here and now, and we need it. That being said, Christians look forward to heaven, a place where faith will be replaced by sight. God will be there, always present with all of us, in such a way that our trust in him will not come into question. In that place, under those circumstances, we won’t need to be forgiven because sin and unbelief will never rise up to separate us from God. It’s an exciting thought - though it, too, is one that (for now) can only be received by faith. 

(And welcome, by the way! It’s great that you’re here!)
Here’s a question: How will we ever get people to get along? 
It’s increasingly common to hear people worry about what seems to be a growing polarity between people. Whether it’s cultural, political, or philosophical, it can seem like there are often two sides that refuse to listen to each other and have no meaningful interest in finding unity. In fact, that’s what’s at the core of this polarity worry: Will there be reconciliation? Can there ever be unity?
Nobody is surprised by the idea that the world isn’t perfect, of course. What is surprising, though, is how many people seem to think it can be perfect. Like, if we just worked harder and listened more (or some other version of a “we can do it” solution) everything could get good. Unfortunately, it can’t. The world is broken - but that doesn’t mean that our perspective on life has to be hopeless. It just means that we have to have some way of dealing with the reality of a broken, imperfect world.
That is where forgiveness really becomes useful. When things aren’t working, and maybe can’t really be worked out or corrected, forgiveness is a path forward. It creates a new way to find unity, and (for now) we need it. The art of living in this sin-wrecked place is to embrace and practice forgiveness - and as followers of Jesus, it kind of makes sense, because forgiving is the one thing he did more than any other in his life on this broken planet. 
Hopefully that makes enough sense to get you started.

Pray this prayer to get into it:
It’s heartbreaking to live with the results of sin
in our lives, in the lives of those around us, and all over the world.
Show us the way that forgiveness opens
for the healing and unity of our hearts.

Let's pause and catch a breath. Forgiveness means dealing with the problem and reality of sin, and that can be exhausting. Use this Worship section to find some rest in the reality that through Jesus, the way we deal with sin is hopeful and, sometimes, even exciting.

Begin exploring this by watching this video about God partnering with his people. 
Jesus is the prefect embodiment of the partnership that God desires with the human race that he created, and (as you just saw in the video) he calls us into that partnership through faith in the forgiveness that he won for us when he died on the cross.
We continue and expand on that partnership by practicing what Jesus practiced: forgiveness. Thankfully, we don’t have to die on the cross ourselves, that’s been completely done. We simply act accordingly: if Jesus has removed all sin, we can forgive others, embracing the fact that our sin no longer separates us.

Have someone read this prayer for the group: 
What if God paid us back in full for all the wrong we have done?


O Lord we seek your mercy...
yet we ourselves look for payback when we are wronged.

We think it “only fair” and “what is right” when we retaliate
  and use harsh words
    and withdraw from relationship.

The forgiveness you offer on our account
  is larger than we can comprehend,
    still we withhold forgiveness
      and carry the grudge over petty items.

We are eager to do your judging.
And the worst: we conspire our inner thoughts
  to secure your forgiveness
    while avoiding honest repentance.

Forgive us Lord for the sins we know in our hearts.
Save us Lord from the sins we hide.

(pause for reflection and self-examination)

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and has not dealt with us according to our sins.
Instead, God has chosen the sacrifice of God’s own son on our account.
It is because Jesus Christ pays the last full measure
that our sins are forgiven.
This gift of forgiveness makes us able,
with the power of Holy Spirit,
to choose to forgive, renew
and live again in right relationship with each other and with our God.
In the name of Father, and the Son,
and the Holy Spirit.
(This song is included on the Forgiveness is Passing Spotify playlist.)

Creating a Culture of Christian Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a powerful thing, but too often we forget that when we engage in forgiveness we are extending the kingdom of God, creating a culture based on the work of Jesus on the cross. Today, we'll explore the common responses to apologies and delve into the deeper implications of saying, "it's not a big deal."

Read the following by dividing and conquering between 4 people. 
Person 1:
The most common responses to "sorry" are something along the lines of "don't worry about it," "it's not a big deal," or "it's all good." But if that's the response to "sorry," then that response isn't forgiveness. If what happened truly wasn't a big deal, wasn't something to worry about, or all good, then no apology would have been necessary. When a person says it's all good, however, when it really wasn't, they're barring themselves from being able to participate in what an apology is supposed to do in a few key ways:
Person 2: 
1. They're taking away the ability of the offender to take responsibility for their offense. By saying it's not big deal, they're dismissing the offender's attempt to own the weight of what they did and make amends.
2. They're disrespecting themselves. Something did indeed hurt and affect them, but they're acting as if they're not hurt. They're not being true to themselves, they're declaring their feelings invalid or just not worth attention. All the while the chance to resolve it those feelings is being handed to them, but they're choosing to not accept it.
Person 3: 
They're fracturing a relationship. (This is almost ironic because one of the big reasons people respond "it's not a big deal" to the apology is in an attempt to smooth over the relationship and restore it to homeostasis.) However, by not acknowledging the hurt and pretending it's okay, the relationship is allowing an unresolved offense to not only exist between the parties but be accepted by the parties. It's an unspoken agreement that the two parties in the relationship are going to now embrace this relationship as a charade. Both know there's hurt, both are choosing to ignore the hurt and pretend it's not there. But those buried and crystallized unresolved hurts create distrust and distance. Until that buried offense is dug up and resolved, it will be impossible for that relationship to be truly intimate (where intimacy equals being fully known and accepted). The longer it remains buried, the more work it requires and the more painful it will be to dig it up and restore it.
Person 4: 
The quick "it's all good" response in an attempt to smooth things over comes from a place of insecurity and codependency, not from a place of love and forgiveness.
Deep resolution and restoration of the relationship comes when the offended acknowledges and expresses the hurt, when the offender empathizes the hurt and expresses sorrow, and when the offended believes that the offender understands the hurt they are feeling, makes a choice to still love and accept the offender. This interchange builds huge bonds of trust and safety in the relationship. But doing it hurts. It's difficult and painful to confront that hurt, especially with the person who caused it.

Discuss this using the questions below: 
  1. How do you typically respond when someone apologizes to you? Can you recall a time when you said "it's not a big deal" even though you were genuinely hurt?
  2. How does dismissing an apology differ from genuine forgiveness?
  3. Discuss the idea that by dismissing an offense, we're disrespecting ourselves. How does this resonate with you?
  4. Share an experience where an unresolved issue created distance in a relationship. How was it eventually resolved, if at all?
  5. Why is it challenging to confront hurt, especially with the person who caused it?
  6. How can the idea of building a “culture of forgiveness“ that extends the kingdom of God help you  moving forward?
Joining (and Enhancing) the Conversation
We’re exploring the modern, secular, often workplace oriented discussion of forgiveness. 

Generally, in this series, we’ve been a little critical of the current, secular conversation around forgiveness. While there are things to criticize, let’s close the series on a higher note. First of all, it’s exciting that conversations about forgiveness are happening, even if they’re imperfect. For Christians, who love forgiveness, any chance to enjoy it with others is a blessing.
Secondly, there are some ways that modern research and social learning are coming fantastically close to being harmonious with the kind of kingdom forgiveness that’s founded on Christ’s unconditional love. One person who is a voice for this is Brené Brown. Watch this video of a section of her TED talk that points out how ”blame” is not really a part of forgiveness culture.
Discuss this video with these questions: 
  1. Brene Brown emphasizes the importance of vulnerability in embracing accountability. What can Christians do to help those around us become more comfortable being vulnerable? 
  2. As Christians, we're called to forgive as we have been forgiven. How does the act of forgiveness intersect with the idea of holding someone accountable without resorting to blame? 
  3. How can we practice forgiveness in a way that promotes healing and growth, rather than perpetuating cycles of blame and avoidance?
Close with this song: 

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