“Repentance is the strained throbbing of birth. Forgiveness through the grace of God is the gift of the new life emerging from the depths of sin’s womb. The born again, those who have received that new birth, learn to forgive first self, then others as self.” — Harris Murray
On paper, it should not have happened. I reached the round of sixteen in the South Carolina Match Play Championship at sixteen years of age, paired against my friend and teammate, Bill Moore. Bill was more talented and beat me nine times out of ten. But on this day, I bested him. Golfers tee it up and compete for a reason. Outcomes are not decided on paper.
What competes for our heart? What consumes our attention? Are we Christians on paper or do we commit our life to the hard task of becoming the servant God calls us to be? What and who wins the internal battle between a consuming avoidance and real repentance?
Nowhere in our spiritual life are we more exposed or faith more expressed than in our ability or inability to forgive. And forgiveness, real life-altering, major trespass forgiveness, is the hard task.
The small trespass demands little from us. As life moves on, it is easily forgotten. Because of this, we think forgiving is forgetting, and of course, nothing could be more false. The greatest pain we endure, the wound or injury consuming our life, cannot be forgotten because it serves as the means to avoid future pain.
The first hurt is an awakening, the first coloring of perception and distinct awareness, not all is ideal. The hurt reveals a duality of purpose. We either move toward the pain, and therefore toward God, or we attempt to wait out forgiveness in a false hope some interim revenge or life equaling event occurs that justifies we were right all along.
Is this not the greater sin than the sin against us? Is forgiveness only reserved for those we love? How many ways can the self-righteous exclude themselves from grace? And haven’t we all been that person?
Forgiveness is an overcoming, a test if you will, between our faith on paper and the very real act of committing such an act of compassion. Real forgiveness demands we never forget, and in remembering our hurt, face the battle within. And when repentance wins, we lean toward God. How else can the new life ever come and express itself in reality?
It’s time to get on with it. Withholding forgiveness perpetuates the pain and avoidance. The goal is to love so much we forgive the trespass before it ever occurs. This is the new life, loving neighbor as self.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28,29, NKJV).
God’s consuming love wins over avoidance.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).
Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org