"Do not judge, and you will
not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37 (NIV)
Faith In Shrouded Truths
What is interesting about this Expression of Grace story is that, through it, I have been able to first discover the "law" that God has written in my heart and then later verify it through reading the Bible. For all the years that I've been sharing this story with people, I never had a scriptural reference for this part of the story. Never, that is, until just recently (2010).
In April of this year, I invited a small group of musicians to my home to share the Expression of Grace story with them. In preparing notes for this meeting, the Holy Spirit lead me to the following scripture:
I Cor. 4:5
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
This was the missing piece of the puzzle for the completion of the story. Let's look at how it fits into my story...
In the previous page, I told you that there was a musician who I didn't forgive and it made performing difficult for me when we were hired for the same gig. Months later, after wrestling with my inability to forgive certain people for certain things, I learned more details surrounding the events that caused me to be angry with that musician. When I could finally see what was going on in his life that caused this person to act the way he had, I was no longer offended by what he had done. I realized that I would have probably done the same thing as he did. And in fact, if things had gone the way I wanted them to, I would have caused other people a lot of grief and I would never have wanted that. In the end, I was glad things worked out the way they did.
That was the first of several incidences when God later revealed truths about a person I couldn't previously forgive. When you know someone else's story and learn why they do the things they do, it helps you to understand them and empathize with them. It helps you get to a place in your own life where you can forgive them for what they have done to you.
And I guess the reason it works that way is because it is only after you can see yourself in their shoes that you realize that they are on the same side of God's grace as you are. Until then, it is difficult to see past the pain they have caused us (and in some cases continue to cause us). But when we see our own short comings in their stories and in their lives, we can't help but to pour out on them the grace that God has also given to us so freely.
The problem is, it's impossible to know everyone's story. If we wait until we know the story behind ever hurtful action committed against us, we would hardly be able to forgive more than about 10% of the time. We MUST forgive 100% of the time. It's not optional and we cannot just wait until we have an opportunity to "walk in their shoes" before we exercise that forgiveness.
This is where "Faith In Shrouded Truths" comes in and the reason for quoting I Cor. 4:5 on this page. I learned as a result of these experiments that I needed to have faith that every sin against me would be easily forgivable if I knew the story of the life of that person who committed it. With that faith, I can look back at my own past and see the truth in the lives of the people I had already forgiven and project that same forgiveness into the future. When I trust our Heavenly Father with those truths, I can then forgive everyone who harms or offends me.
I know that to a lot of Christians, the idea of needing "Faith In Shrouded Truths" probably seems redundant. After all, God tells us to forgive and that should be the end of the issue, right?
But the beauty of working though all of this in the context of my performances is that I had (and still have) a feedback system that tells me if it's working. You know, it's sort of like what I do each morning after my wife and I get home from our daily run. I do two things that give me feedback about how I'm doing on health issues. I check my blood pressure and I weigh myself. These two things help me know if I'm moving in the right direction or if I have strayed from my health goals.
In a similar way, my performances do the same thing but for my spiritual life. When the performances are going poorly, and when I know it is not for physical reasons (being ill or fatigued or anything like that), I can see the real life affects of the absence of God's grace in my life. Going to a performance is just like putting that blood pressure cuff on my arm each day. It tells me if I'm doing it right or if I'm heading in the wrong direction.
In that way, I knew I wasn't forgiving people EVEN WHEN I was saying it and praying it. In fact, when I first began sharing this story with people, this "chapter" of the story hadn't been written yet. At that time, I was already working on a book about An Expression of Grace but this chapter hadn't come into the picture yet because I didn't know, at that time, that it was necessary. I, like most Christians, thought it was enough to say the words "I forgive you". I was wrong.
If you wish to make your performances an expression of God's grace in your life, it is mandatory that you share that grace with others in your life. Forgive those who have wronged you. Let go of the hurt they have caused in your life so that you can live in the freedom of His loving mercy. If you don't know their story, trust in God that you would be able to forgive that person if you walked in their shoes and knew what their life was like. Always remember that the people who wrong you are on the same side of God's grace as you are.
The shrouded truths chapter of this story was going to be the final chapter in the "book". At this point in the story, the Expression of Grace story is complete. I told you about my battle with stage fright and my quest for musical excellence. I told you about my reaction to the new-age solutions to these performance related problems and how God spoke to me about His grace in the context of those problems. I told you how the story didn't end there when I realized that, in order to express God's grace through my music, I needed to share His grace with others in my life. Then finally, on this page I told you how I learned to forgive those who were more difficult to forgive.
One of my callings is to be a teacher. I'm sure I've already said so many times on the previous pages. When I had finished working out all the details of this story, I was ready to write the book but God told me, "No". Every time I prayed about it again, God was very clear in his response...."It's not time, yet."
The pages that follow this one are a continuation of the story. The Expression of Grace story ends here, but my story does not. Continue reading my story to learn about a series of miracles that happened in my life not long after the Expression of Grace story was completed.
1) Does it help you to forgive someone when you can finally "Walk in their shoes"? Do you recognize that those who have wronged you are on the same side of God's grace as you are?
2) Who are the people you find most difficult to forgive in your life? Do you try to justify that unforgiveness or do you sincerely desire to reach a place in your life where you can truly forgive them?
3) Can you trust God that there is a reason to forgive? We can't always know the other side's story, so can you trust God, just as the Bible says in 1 Cor 4:5, that all things will later be known?