“Forgiveness…Even For Myself?”

(This is a “Trigger Warning” for this post which looks at how childhood sexual abuse can make it difficult for a person to love and forgive themselves.)

There are some verses in the Bible that assume things about how people are.

There is no commandment in the Bible to love yourself. It’s just assumed that everyone does.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22:39 (KJV)

There is no commandment in the Bible to forgive yourself. It’s just assumed that everyone does.

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 (KJV)

But not everyone loves themselves. Not everyone forgives themselves.

This can be true when we have made bad choices mostly perhaps on our own such as choosing addictions like drugs or alcohol, starving ourselves or cutting ourselves.

This can be true as well when we have been manipulated or forced into making bad choices without fully understanding what is going on or what the consequences will be. Childhood sexual abuse can make it very difficult for a person to love themselves and to forgive themselves.

Sometimes there is an abuser, a predator, who has very carefully manipulated the situation so that they seem to be not at fault. The abuser may be “just trying to help” or “taking the place of someone else who can’t or won’t help.” These are lies and deceptions that mask their true intentions.

The abuser may even make the child believe that it was really his or her own idea, not the adult’s idea, and that they are just as naive as the child, just playing a game that the child wanted to play. They may say something like “Just remember, this was your idea and what you wanted to do.” They will not say that they are enjoying the manipulation, the power, the control, the sexual thrill.

Looking back with adult survivor eyes, there may be pain, embarrassment, and the feeling of betraying oneself. You may doubt yourself. You may blame yourself for not being smart enough, for being gullible, for liking the attention, for allowing yourself to be used like that.

Years and adult decisions can put distance between the adult survivor and the abuser, but how does one make decisions to put distance between oneself? How do you get away from yourself? There is legal recourse that can be taken against an abuser, if you choose to take that route, but how does one take legal recourse against oneself? How do you make yourself pay?

Here is the dilemma.

If someone hurts God, treats Him like He doesn’t matter, then that person is going to pay for that betrayal. You mess with God, you are going to pay. The gun is loaded and cocked. The gun is fired at Jesus instead of you. This is sometimes the way that the Gospel is presented. Someone has to die. It’s either going to be Jesus or Me.

If someone hurts Me, treats Me like I don’t matter, then that person is going to pay for that betrayal. You mess with Me, you are going to pay. The gun is loaded and cocked. Only in this case, the gun is fired at Me.

When we hurt and betray ourselves, that’s not against God. That’s not messing with God, so maybe Jesus didn’t die for that. God gave Jesus to die for the hurts we give to God. Jesus took the penalty that rightly should be ours.

But who am I going to give to die for the hurts I gave to myself? The only person I can give to die for the hurts I gave to myself is me.

Stuff like this can make you want to kill yourself. No lie.

So think about how Christ and His Cross are presented. Is it like “when there is sin, the gun is loaded and cocked so somebody has got to die”? Jesus was crucified so God could change His mind about us? Is that right?

This next quote was part of our message on The Second Sunday Of Easter, and it came at just the right time as I was thinking through what to say in this post:

“Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about us, but to change our minds about God.”

This is an important message for everyone, on the last pew or not.

There is only one thing that I want to add for those on the last pew who hate themselves and are unable to forgive themselves for whatever reason, including those who believed lies, were misled, and abused as children. Even though everyone has a different story, is remains true for everyone who was abused as a child.

“Jesus also came to change our minds about ourselves.”

You did nothing wrong. You did nothing wrong. You did nothing wrong.

You were never in control of the situation, even if you were led to believe that you were. You could not have been smarter. You could not have figured it out on your own. Your abuser was not your equal. Your predator had a plan to succeed no matter what you did or didn’t do.

I believe with all of my heart that just as Jesus came to change our minds about God, He also came to change our minds about ourselves.

He can change your mind about yourself, and He can heal you.

Here is the only other part that I’m putting in bold. If you can relate to this and are struggling with this or know someone who is…seek counseling. There are resources available that can help you. I’m just drawing and writing from my limited perspective. But there are professionals that can help you. Seriously. Jesus is right there with you on the last pew. Honestly.

“Forgiveness…Even For Them?”

I’ve been a “Voice From The Last Pew” a time or two. I still sit within a handshake away because that where I’m most needed right now. I’ve been a “Church Insider” and a “Church Outsider.”

Forgiveness is what the cross is all about. Through it our sins are forgiven, and in gratitude and with opened eyes, we show our appreciation by forgiving others. To not do so would be to say that the blood of Jesus is good enough to wash away my sins, but not the sins of those who have sinned against me.

Forgiveness is not a difficult thing when we’re talking about someone taking the last slice of chocolate cake or cutting us off in traffic. Those things can be quickly forgiven and forgotten. But abuse of any type violates a person deeply, to the very core of who they are. It involves a different kind hurt and requires a different kind of forgiveness.

When abused, you try to protect yourself, but there is no protection. The only thing untouched perhaps is your will, maybe not your present will, but your future will. And your future will says, “I will never…” and “If I am able to get out of this alive, I will never…”

For some people it’s “I will never treat another person like this.” For others it’s “I will never forgive this person who is abusing me.” The words “I will” are all a person has sometimes. They may offer the only protection and comfort.

What I want to say is that this is about protecting yourself. It’s not about rejecting the Bible or the teachings of Jesus. He knows what happened. He knows you’ve survived the best you can. He knows you are a mess inside even if on the outside everything looks fine. He knows it takes time to recover and heal.

Here is the dilemma.

If you forgive the abuser, then it will seem like they have beaten you up again. You have surrendered the last thing that was truly your own that no one could touch: your will. The abuser has totally won.

If you don’t forgive the abuser, then your Heavenly Father won’t forgive you. You’re going to hell for unforgiven sin. You will have to spend eternity in hell with your abuser who laughs at you, abuses you even more, only there is no escape from hell.

But what if your abuser repents of all their sins and forgave everyone, and then our Heavenly Father forgives them? And what if you don’t? You’re going to hell for unforgiven sin. Your abuser has a clean record. They’re going to heaven for all eternity. You’re a loser, just like they told you that you were while they were abusing you.

Stuff like this can keep a person up all night. Seriously.

But it’s real. Just as real as the bruises and welts and marks. Just as real as the pain. Just as real as the coverup.

But even more real is Jesus. He is King. What He says goes, and what He says more and more if we will only listen is this…“My Kingdom is ruled by the Spirit, not the Letter.”

Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 (KJV)

The message of the letter is “thou shalt surely die” but the message of the spirit of our Jesus is “thou shalt surely live.”

I’m concerned that we could take even the words of Jesus and turn them into words of the letter that kill rather than allowing them to be words of the spirit that give life.

For many people who have been abused or who are recovering from abuse, to say, “You must forgive your abuser” is like being killed, like having the last bit of life removed. Unless you’ve lived it and survived, it may be difficult to understand.

Truly forgiveness comes in time, but I believe it’s most likely to slip up on you, when you least expect it. You will give it up because you have slowly and gradually embraced Jesus, and He has become a greater comfort to you than unforgiveness.

Here is the only part that I’m putting in bold. If you can relate to this and are struggling with this or know someone who is…seek counseling. There are resources available that can help you. I’m just drawing and write from my limited perspective. But there are professionals that can help you. Seriously. Jesus is right there with you on the last pew. Honestly.

“Voices From The Last Pew”

I’ve been thinking for some time now about adding a new graphic strip, one that is more on the serious side and shares maybe something different.

There is a great variety of Christian blogs on WordPress, and I’m unsure exactly where this one fits. (Then again, that shouldn’t be anything new for a guy who has felt out of place most of his life! A guy who has been and maybe still is both “Church Insider” and “Church Outsider”!)

The past few months have given me a chance to read a good number of posts here and to see a little better what’s happening in the world. So I’ve wanted to add something new that will reflect what I’m seeing.

There is a great deal of hurt going on and many people struggling to recover from past wounds. It’s something with which I feel a desire to help by hopefully binding up wounds even though I did not cause them.

Hurt and abuse that is done to us or that we do to ourselves are serious topics. I’ve been preparing a new graphic strip tentatively titled “Voices From The Last Pew.” It will hopefully offer some insights into adults struggling with big hurts and big questions since many times hurting children grow up to be hurting adults.

The “Last Pew” can refer to either “the last pew at the back of the sanctuary closest to the exit door” or “the last pew a person will ever sit in before giving up completely.” This last reference is particularly important for those of us who believe that we should never knowingly shut anyone out.

The initial perspective will be along the lines of “This is what the church is saying to the ‘Church Insider’ but this is what the ‘Church Outsider’ is hearing.”

I must be honest and say that I have no real 100% guaranteed answers, but I do believe that it is so very important to acknowledge, just acknowledge, that life experiences can effect how we hear God’s Word.

Ultimately, I believe, God’s Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ, speaks the answers that heal and restore.

The first posting for “Voices From The Last Pew” should appear tomorrow and will deal with “Forgiveness” and the question “How can you ever forgive someone who has wounded you so very deeply?” Again, no real 100% guaranteed answers because I’m not offering “Miraculous Multiplying American Christian Apple Pie” here! Hopefully this will open some hearts however!