Putting Away Childish Things Pt 7: Making a list, and checking it forever

I Cor 13:4-6 (edited)  Love is…. not….resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing…”

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As I established in part one of this series, anything that violates these “laws of love” in I Cor 13 qualifies as one of the “childish things” referred to in vs 11.  The edited section above is a toughie and I never tied the concepts together until this morning.  How does resentment connect up with rejoicing about transgressions?

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Very simple.

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There are those who delight in every offense against them because they are making a list to throw in the faces of their transgressors whenever it benefits them.

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Do you know people like this?  People who “forgive” but who are quick to bring up past wrongs whenever they need to assert some control?  Whether it be to engender sympathy, or induce guilt, or control behavior — that list is is quickly pulled out and loudly articulated.  Yes, they have “forgiven” us, but we need to be reminded over and over and over again in case we forgot, or if we annoy them, or if they want their way and need to ply some emotional blackmail.

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It is one thing to have an internal list of reasons why we cannot safely be in a relationship with someone who is actually abusive, and quite another to use past sins as a manipulative tool against those who we have chosen to be in relationship with and are actually trying.  Yes, remember the man who molested you and stay away, but when you say you have forgiven and they have repented and are trying to do better, they do not need to hear the whole list every time they screw up.  That isn’t exhortation (encouragement towards righteousness), that is dragging a person back to the cesspool they used to live in and splashing them with the contents until they grovel.

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People need to be able to escape their pasts at some point, because if they can’t then what is the point of walking this walk at all?  If there is no remission of sins within a relationship then there is also no hope.  Yeshua (Jesus) did that for us, which is why we can have a relationship with the Father, despite all the evils in the past.  If I respond by continuing to sin on purpose, then yes, there is a list being compiled against me and there is no remission for that – just like in any relationship. But when I sin against Him and feel deep regret, and go forward trying to do better, He loves me and accepts that.  He doesn’t accept my transgressions, but He accepts me when I repent, draw near and keep trying.  I am grateful that He never reproaches me for what I used to write, thankful He does not drag me back to that filth to look at it because if He did I might give up and sit down there to stay and die.  Humans might decide to torture me for a life left far behind, but He doesn’t.

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We need to deal with the repentant sin by sin, not piling them up in a big ugly list like some kind of twisted self-righteous insurance policy.  We have to forget the things they have stopped doing so that they can forget it too, and so that they can stop living there.  If the people we are responsible for do less evil less often, then deal with the less evil and stop reminding them of the worse evil they used to do more often.  I know it seems like a risk when we have learned to rely on this method of controlling others, but we are called not only to righteousness but also to right ruling (justice, mishpat).  Righteousness requires a standard, but right ruling requires merciful administration.

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I cannot tell you what that looks like in every situation, but it never looks like a long laundry list of offenses that the person doesn’t want to commit anymore.

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You know, what it amounts to is unnecessary, fruitless, and pointless attempts to shame someone who is already ashamed of their past.  It might seem like accountability, but accountability is about the “now” and not about issues that have already been addressed.  If there is shame and repentance, then there can be restoration — if the offended party is able to forgive and show mercy.  Sometimes that does not happen, sometimes the crime is so great that the victim cannot bring himself/herself to forgive.  In that case, there is a breach in the relationship and possibly no relationship left at all.  But those situations are the exception rather than the rule.  Sadly, most lists are populated with relatively minor offenses – which is why each new offense is rejoiced over as a new piece of ammunition.

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I am going to close this out with an ugly piece of truth.  The saddest reason for these lists, the reason new transgressions are rejoiced over is this —

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We want the person who hurt us to hurt as badly as we hurt.  But we have to accept that it is never going to happen.  The murderer, no matter how repentant, is never going to hurt as badly as the loved ones of the victim.  It is impossible.  They will never be able to pay a price high enough to balance out the pain that thy have caused.  The same is true for just about every sin out there.  The victims always hurt worse than the person who hurt them.  That is why the victim will often delight in the new sins as the only way they have to inject new pain into the person they hurt them.  They see new transgressions as an opportunity for revenge.

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Beloveds, this is a trap.  As difficult as it is to accept, they will never hurt in the same way, with the same intensity that they have hurt us.  Keeping that list and becoming their tormentor isn’t just childish, it drags us into sin.  We become the accuser, we become the oppressor, we become the one who does not forgive, we become the discourager.  And it is addictive.  It is a deadly addiction.  It may seem like justice, but it isn’t, it just bores a hole into our souls where we store the sins of others for our amusement, to satisfy flesh that will never shout, “Enough!”

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We are called to allow God to be our judge, and our justice.  We have to set ourselves free, by truly forgiving and truly letting go and trusting that there will be true justice someday.  But worldly recompense for our pain?  It will never happen, not by making a list and living in it.  The only thing that can happen, of any good, will be to allow God to take that pain and make something else out of it.  You may not believe me now, but when it happens, it really is enough.

 

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