Practicing What I Preach: Making Forgiveness a Habit

“Every Moment is a Chance to Practice” – Charlie Gilkey, ProductiveFlourishing.com

Recently I read a post with the above title, from Charlie Gilkey’s Productive Flourishing website.  Charlie is the provider of some of my favorite weekly project planners, all aimed at creative types whose lives are project (not appointment) centered.  While Charlie was speaking of other things, his title reminded me of a principle I learned decades ago:  I must choose every moment to practice in seemingly small ways, what I may someday have to do in a much larger way.

What do I mean?

  • To run a marathon I’ve never run, I must run smaller distances on a regular basis before running 26 miles.
  • To have a good annual dental report, I must brush my teeth every day.
  • To read the Bible daily, I have to choose to say no to distractions, often one after the other, some provided by my own brain.

This truth also applies in our Christian spiritual lives: Those of us who are Christians often say “I have surrendered my will to Jesus Christ.”  But if we live our daily lives choosing our own will, demanding our own way in everything, how will we suddenly be obedient to Jesus’ will when He requires it?  On a daily basis we have practiced doing our own will and demanding our own way until it has become a habit.  When the crunch time comes, will we not be much more likely to do our own will, than to do His will?

Jesus has indeed given us a command, to forgive others (“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew chapter 6 verse 14), therefore we must, on a daily basis – sometimes on a minute by minute basis – extend forgiveness to those who offend us, including but not limited to:  the drivers that cut in front of us on the road, family members, or the co-worker down the hall.  Even a seemingly small situation requiring us to forgive is not some lightweight, sweet and easy thing, but often a difficult act of the will, out of obedience to Jesus, that goes completely contrary to what our will wants to do.  I often fail in the battle to obey and forgive.  When I do, by the grace of God I get up, dust myself off, and try again, in the hope that someday my forgiveness muscle will be strong and ready for action, and I will finally have trained my will to do Christ’s will, not my own.  When I’m whining and having a pity party over the “injustice” done to me by someone who infringed what I considered to be one of my rights, I remind myself that Jesus set the bar high when, after having every human right violated, and being tortured and hung on a cross, He said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

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