Bible Verse: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

Scripture Reading: Romans 3:21-26

My three-year-old granddaughter invited me and my wife into her bedroom to play. As soon as we entered, she closed the door behind her and announced, “Papa, Nana, in here you have to do everything I say or else I will have to discipline you and put you on time out!”

We couldn’t help but laugh and be impressed at the truth of her statement. Everyone on earth needs to be disciplined because there are tendencies in our soul that are just not right.

Forgiveness requires that something wrong was done. If nothing wrong took place, there is nothing to forgive. If, on the other hand, an offence can be identified, forgiveness is the strategic response that frees our hearts and empowers our relationship with God.

This is exactly how salvation works. Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is God’s profound way of saying we were wrong. If we are willing to admit to our faults we can then, and only then, experience God’s grace, forgiveness and transformation. If we refuse to admit that we have come up short, God will intensify the message to get our attention. Our deficiencies will continue to haunt us. Our shortcomings will bog us down. God will press in on us to help us accept that we are imperfect and in need of a Savior. To experience His grace, we must first admit we were wrong.

Fighting bitterness requires the same starting point. We need to forgive because people will do what is wrong. Rather than be surprised by the fact that all have sinned, we ought to expect that others will let us down, mistreat us, do harm and act selfishly. We don’t want to grow negative about it, but we want to be honest.

I had to come to grips with this early in adulthood. I grew up with a mom who was both loving and wounded. She used a lot of criticism in an attempt to relieve her own stress and hopefully motivate me and my siblings. It was confusing and discouraging. While this was going on, my dad chose to be absent. He lived in the house and worked hard but seemed to disappear anytime mom ramped up. I realized in my twenties that I didn’t trust men my dad’s age because I believed they would bale out when you needed them the most. As a result, I had no mentors available to me because the best mentors in life are roughly the age of your dad.

It would have been easy to let my dad off the hook because his dad died when he was 17 so he lacked a role model as a young man. The truth, however, is my dad’s family was my dad’s responsibility and he should have learned how to guide his family better. His unwillingness to learn new skills and intervene in situations that were destructive to his kids was wrong. It wasn’t unfortunate or explainable, it was wrong.

Once I was willing to admit that what my dad had “not” done was wrong, I discovered the grace to forgive him. I became willing to accept that he was just as imperfect as I am, and this happened to be the part of his life that didn’t work the way it was supposed to. I didn’t need him to change and I didn’t need him to apologize in order for me to forgive in my heart.

My forgiveness didn’t change my dad. He didn’t suddenly gain the skill to confront my mom. He didn’t improve his communication skills. He didn’t seek out training to become a more effective patriarch in the family. The change happened in me. I grew in my acceptance of him as a gift from God to help me be the man I am supposed to be. I matured in my ability to set boundaries that promoted self-respect and made room for the relationship my dad could handle. I became more active in praying for my dad as a man who needed all the grace God was willing to share with him.

Freedom is a gritty journey and begins with forgiving actions that were wrong.

Jesus, give me the strength to identify actions that are wrong and the humility to forgive.

— Bill Farrel, author of 7 Simple Skills for Every Man.


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