Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Cost of Christianity: Forgiveness

In church you hear one message: Turn to Jesus as your savior because He makes everything better. Sure, life still has it's ups and downs. But wouldn't you rather have God on your side through that?

Faith in Jesus saves. No more need for thought. You want saving, don't you?

If you answer, "Not yet," then we adjourn until next week. If you answer, "Yes," then we say the prayer. You can come back next week where you'll again hear the wonders of walking with Christ.

At the moment, I'm sick of it. I'm done. Count me out of such pathetic religious babble. I've had enough.

Becoming Christ-like is nothing like that.

So what is the cost of following Christ? I've heard of things like giving up porn, abandoning alcohol, reducing your rage, and surrendering your ambitions. And I'm sure there is a part of this that includes all of that. But that's not where I am at the moment. No, tonight I'm a lot more basic than that. I'm near square one: Forgiveness.

"Will you forgive me?" she asks, not daring to come closer.

"I don't know," I spit. "That's asking a lot of me."

"I know," she breathes.

I stew. The pain, the anger, the frustration. It's all there, very real. I want to hate her. I want to be furious. I want to feel this way forever because... because I have the right to. It may be petty, but it's real. Very real. "I have to eat this if I forgive you."

"It sounds very bitter."

"It is."

"I don't want it to choke you. Is there a way that it doesn't have to choke you or be bitter?" She really wants to know. It would hurt her too much if it choked me. And she can't bear more bitterness.

Bible truths start nudging my brain. These aren't lessons you learn in Sunday School. These aren't messages you hear from the pulpit. You've heard about your need for forgiveness. You've been told over and over again that you forgive because of how much you have been forgiven. You can even remember a time when someone told you that your ability to forgive rests on God's ability to take care of you and take that burden from you.

But I want to hold this burden. I want to choke on the bitterness of forgiveness. I want to be crushed under the weight of the wrong done to me. I don't want it to go away. I certainly don't want it replaced with something like intimacy and fondness. Even the thought of those words makes me want to spit.

And this, I realize as I stew silently, is why there is no transforming power of Christ in my life. This--and other things like it--are what make Christianity so impotent in my life. This is why I see no power, no heart change, no awesomeness in following Christ. This is why Christianity is simply so hard for me to share: Because it costs so stinkin' much! And if I'm not willing to make the payments, I'm certainly not going to ask someone else to do the same.

"I forgive you," I grumble. I'm a man of my word, and if I'm going to follow, I'm going to follow... even if it's terrible. Even if it costs too much. Even if it isn't worth it.

I cling to the burden a moment more, feeling Christ gently prying it from my hands. I scream, 'I don't want to let You have this!' I curse at my Savior. I swear at the One who forgave me. I scream profanity in the face of Him who promises to repay whatever I'm going to lose in this exchange of forgiving.

I'm feeling the cost.

It hurts. This is faith in action, and it hurts.

I let go.

The world, sadly, doesn't crumble. My wife slides closer and puts her arms around me. Life can go on. I've exchanged my pain, anger and frustration for forgiveness. Christ's blood has covered the difference. I paid the price of following Christ and He paid me back with more. Much more.

But it wasn't fun. It wasn't nice. It was worse than paying a needless bank fine. It was awful. Horrible. Terrible.

But here I am, a couple hours later, writing about it. And not in a vehement, vengeful, violent way. I'm okay. I'm okay in way that I wouldn't have been years ago before God started working this forgiveness thing with me.


A few months ago I almost wrote a piece about the ineffective nature of Christianity. I was going to argue, and argue well, that if we could just grasp one simple concept, we would be perfect. It was this easy:

Realize that, no matter what, you'll be okay. Even if you're not okay, you'll be dead and, therefore, okay. So just let everything roll off you.

If we could do that, I'm convinced, we'd be fine. Wars would end. Hatred and rage would cease. Generosity would flow. The world would experience harmony and love the likes of which has not been seen since the Fall.

...but I realized something tonight: That can't happen. When we let things "roll off" we forgive. We take that burden. We eat that cost. And it is heavy. It is bitter. And if we have no place to put it, nothing to pay us back, then we just carry it ourselves and become overwhelmed.

This is why Christianity is so powerful: We have a God who offers to carry those burdens, to replace the bitter drink with a cup full of good things... like intimacy and fondness.

The cost of following Christ is great. But the payoff is worth so much more.

And I think I may just be beginning to understand these things...

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father


John Umland said...

It's why I start every day with the Lord's prayer. Forgive us as we forgive those who sinned against us. Forgiveness is one of those topics I keep writing and talking about.
The best link is not to anything I wrote, but to one of Jon Acuff's blogs, titled "What a Cuban torture specialist taught me about forgiveness."

Some of my thoughts are listed below.
God is good

Ann said...

Wow. He has been showing me the cost of Christianity as well, and this really hit home. Thanks for the honesty.

Kimmie said...

Wow, spitting. That's pretty real.

Glad God is walking you into a place of understanding.


Marshmallow Circus said...

Great post! My first time visiting, I will have to go read more. :)

Bethany from Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom said...

Wow! Deep comments! I struggle with this very issue - often. Why is it so hard when the end result is what we really want anyway?

Thanks for stopping by my blog & making me (& my readers) laugh :-).

Kate said...

Forgiveness is difficult, but I know that Jesus forgave me for all the things that I did and will do at the same time with out the thought of personal cost. When He told Peter to forgive seventy times seven he meant no matter what. I am seeking to duplicate this in my life.
Christ "ate it" as you put it or drank the cup of bitterness as He put it and in doing so calls us to do the same. If we don't, it can only hurt us as bitterness eats away at our conscience.

In short, Christ forgave me. He calls me to be like Him. I forgive others

Anonymous said...

Ah! Yes...it wasn't until I became a wife and then a mother that the rubber really hit the road with my Chritsianity. I really love this post and think you are learnng(as I am) some very valuable lessons in faith.

The dB family said...

What a powerful post! Forgiveness is a tough thing. I struggle with it a lot. I still need to change, to forgive, to make it my prayer everyday.

Thank you for stopping by my blog! My son was very pleased to hear that he can play Lego even when he's all grown up!


Melanie said...

This is a great post - thank you. and also wanted to say thanks for your occasional comments on my blog. Yes,I hope the next 8 years of homeschooling are the best yet.

Rebecca (me!) said...

All of us carry a lot of pain...and bitterness from lack of forgivness or not really understanding what it is....or feeling like we should be forgiven or should forgive someone else. But, we HAVE to.....it is the only way to break free of the chains of bondage....Have you read the book Total Forgivness? It is awesome...I think EVERYONE should read it! Thank you for sharing and being so honest. I think if more Christians were more honest...unbelievers would see less hypocrisy and turn more quickly toward Christ.

Loving learning at Home said...

Great post. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I love Sonlight and all your family has done for homeschooling. Thanks!

DyessFam said...

So, this may or may not be taken in the way it is meant, but Yay! I hope He get even more a hold of you! I pray that bunches for me, too. :) Missed your posts for a bit, but I'm caught up now. :)

laura said...

This post was so refreshing and timely! Thank you for clearly showing through your words, the struggle we all face and the importance of laying it at the cross.

So hard to do.

Sometimes we get comfortable caring the burden and don't want to let it go.

If we don't ~ we loose out on seeing the amazing things God can do with the situations in our life.

Thanks again for sharing!