Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Getting unburied

THE GREAT GIFT of salvation means freedom from the consequences and power of sin—not only ours, but those acts committed against us. We don’t have to be held captive by others’ wrongs.

However, that can be a process. Remember when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, he was still wrapped in a shroud. Jesus had to tell people to help unwrap him. In the same way, though we may have experienced new life in Jesus, we might still be bound in some old ways, restricted by the things people have said or done that were intended to “bury” us.

The good news is that Jesus’s death and resurrection overcame all sin. God can redeem even the worst of our experiences and encounters, those we initiate as well as those visited on us. As Romans 8:28 promises, He “works all things together for good.”

That doesn’t mean the bad things that happen to us are unimportant or insignificant. Too often this verse gets waved around like a magic wand as though it instantly makes everything OK and we should “just get over it.” Not so.

There’s a time and a place to grieve and mourn and even be angry. When Jesus arrived in Bethany after Lazarus had died, He already knew He was going to raise His friend from the dead. Yet he snorted his displeasure at what had happened, and He wept with Lazarus’ loved ones (John 11).

But there is also a time to let go. Finding freedom from the wounds caused by others may require extending forgiveness to them, just as we have been forgiven by Jesus. As the old saying goes, harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

At times like this, we get to practice what I call the spiritual discipline of praying through clenched teeth: telling God we forgive those who have trespassed against us. We even pray for blessings in their lives, while we definitely don’t feel like it. It’s an act of the will, not wishful thinking.

In so doing, we may actually find we experience a deeper personal awareness of God’s mercy. After all, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to ask that our sins may be forgiven as (meaning to the same measure) we forgive those who have sinned against us.

Sometimes that freedom from the weight of others’ wrongs can come in a glorious instant. Often it’s a process, a journey, with its own pains. Whether easy or arduous, though, it is a path worth traveling.

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