Why Should I Forgive?
About the Guest
Forgiveness is love practiced among people who love poorly. Barbara Rainey, along with her husband, Dennis Rainey, talks about the benefits of forgiveness and shares some true stories that illustrate forgiveness, taken from her book, "Growing Together in Forgiveness.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Forgiveness is love practiced among people who love poorly.
Why Should I Forgive?
Bob: There are times when forgiving another person is very difficult, until you stop and think about the cross. Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: It’s important, I think, that we understand that forgiveness is a gift. It enhances the relationship when you let that person off the hook, when you set them free. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy or that the other person will respond favorably; but the more we can understand the grace of God in our lives and our own need for forgiveness, it does make the whole process of forgiving another person more reasonable, more logical, and more obvious.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how you can grow in the grace of forgiveness and cultivate a culture of forgiveness in your home. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. So, did you mess up somehow?
Dennis: Of course. I mean, of course I messed up! That’s a safe question!
Bob: I get this email from you, and it says—
Dennis: What if I started the broadcast by asking you if you messed up? (Laughter)
Our listeners know! You and I both have messed up a lot. That’s what this broadcast is all about—real family life!
Bob: I get this email from you. This email says, “I need to have my wife on the program to talk about growing together in forgiveness.” (Laughter) I thought, “Okay, so what did you do this time?”
Dennis: Well, it is illustrated richly out of our relationship! She’s just finished a book—a devotional for families. I thought, “What better venue to talk about this than with real families who are struggling with real life?” In fact, before I introduce Barbara, let me just read a portion of the first paragraph in this book. She says, “I know a family in which two brothers haven’t spoken in years and another family in which a brother and sister haven’t spoken in decades. There are no perfect family trees because there are no perfect people.”
Later on, she goes on and has a quote in there that says, “Forgiveness is love practiced among people who love poorly.” I like that! “Forgiveness is love practiced among people who love poorly.” If you think about the Bible, especially the New Testament, what’s it about? It is about relationships—our relationship with God—knowing how to experience His forgiveness of us because He sent His Son to pay the price so that we could be forgiven.
Dennis: But it doesn’t end there. It is so that we can express forgiveness toward other imperfect people.
Bob: Can I say, “Hi,” to your wife, who joins us in the studio?
Dennis: You can.
Bob: Barbara, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: Thanks, Bob. I’m glad to be here.
Bob: I thought we might not get to you.
Barbara: I know!
Bob: Dennis sounded like he was on a soapbox there for just a minute.
Dennis: Well, I believe in this message. In fact, I don’t know if I helped steer her in this direction because she’s now written—isn’t this the fourth book?
Barbara: This is number four.
Dennis: The fourth book you’ve completed in this devotional series. Explain to our listeners kind of what the big dream is for Growing Together—this series.
Bob: Before you do that, how’s the temperature in here? Is it a little chilly for you?
Barbara: It’s cool, but I’m okay. I’ve got a jacket on.
Bob: Okay, just thought I’d check.
Barbara: (Laughter) It’s an inside joke; right?
Dennis: It’s not inside to me. Bob and I have worked together in here for 20 years, and he likes it to be a toasty 95 degrees in here. (Laughter)
Barbara: And you like to exaggerate!
Dennis: I prefer 55 degrees—a little chill like a meat locker; okay?
Bob: That’s right. That’s right.
Barbara: So while I’m in here, it can be warmer; right?
Dennis: It is warmer, no doubt. (Laughter)
Bob: So tell us about the Growing Together series.
Barbara: Well, this is a series of books that I’ve had a desire to do for years. When we were raising our children, we had a ten-year span between the youngest and the oldest. There were books for toddlers—little devotional things you could do with little kids. There were devotional books you could do with your teenagers, but there wasn’t anything that spanned the ages. I really wanted something that I could read with all of my kids and not have to do them in two different groups.
The other thing that I noticed, when I was raising kids, was that most devotionals were random in their organization. They were not topically-driven. What I’ve done with these is—I have made a series of books. The first four are each about a specific topic. The first one is gratitude. For seven days, you read stories of people who practiced gratitude. The second one is on courage. There are seven stories on being courageous. The third one is on truth, and this one is on forgiveness.
My hope is that, as a family, as you read these stories of real people who practiced these principles in their lives—for a whole week—you might be able to make some progress in teaching gratitude or in practicing forgiveness because you talk about it over and over again for a whole week rather than these random topics that pop up all the time, in different order.
Bob: I’ve seen the list. You’ve got a whole bunch more of these that you’d love to do. I’ve seen some of the topics. Why did forgiveness work its way up near the top of the deck here?
Barbara: Partly because forgiveness is just a bedrock principle of the Christian faith. It’s pretty hard to love if you can’t forgive. You need forgiveness in order to do the Christian life. You can’t really do the Christian life if you can’t forgive because we have to be forgiven first in order, then, to forgive others. Part of practicing the truth is forgiveness. Part of being courageous is being courageous in forgiving those who have offended you. It is such an important topic that it needs to be near the front of the line.
Bob: I’ve heard you quote Ruth Bell Graham who said, “A great marriage is the union of two great forgivers.” I’ve shared that quote. Really, at the very foundation of this—
Bob: —when we’re talking about forgiveness, every human relationship is going to require, at some point in time, that forgiveness be offered and that forgiveness be received because we sin against each other daily; don’t we?
Barbara: Yes, we’re sinful people. Really and truly, it’s not just that every relationship will require forgiveness at some point in time. It’s every relationship will require lots of forgiveness lots of the time. You’ve got two people in a marriage who need to forgive each other multiple times every day. Then you start adding children to that. The need for forgiveness is just compounded because of the number of sinful people that are living under one roof.
Dennis: You have a passage of Scripture that you recommend as the memory verse for this entire series of stories about forgiveness.
Barbara: Yes. The verse that we’ve chosen for the memory verse is not really a verse that has the word forgiveness in it; but instead, it is the verse from Genesis 50, verse 20, where Joseph said to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.”
That’s the essence of forgiveness—is realizing that God has a big picture in mind. I’m not letting somebody off the hook. I’m cooperating with what God wants to do in my life and what God wants to do in this other person’s life. That’s the reason I chose that verse instead of, “Forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.” That’s a great verse about forgiveness—and we should have that memorized, too—but I wanted our listeners—I wanted families—to pull back to the big picture and forgive in the context of God’s sovereignty. God is at work in the midst of all of our failings.
Dennis: Notice, again, that the context of this passage is about family.
Barbara: Yes, it is.
Dennis: I mean, it’s about brothers who threw a brother under the bus and sold him into slavery.
Bob: I think it was under the mule that they threw him, (Laughter) but we get the idea! (Laughter)
Barbara: Under the caravan hooves.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: Okay, Sweetheart, give our listeners an idea of the topics that you cover. Then, let’s come back and let’s talk about this first one here. Just give them a high flyby of the seven topics you discuss in this book.
Barbara: Well, they’re not just topics, if I might clarify. There is a topic for each story, but they’re all around an individual person’s life. The first one is John Newton. The topic is “Forgiveness Is a Gift Received.” As I said a minute ago, we have to receive forgiveness before we can learn how to give it. Then, the second story is about Joseph. We were just talking about him. That’s the concept of “Forgiveness Is a Gift Given.”
Then, we have this young woman, and I will probably not pronounce her name exactly right; but her name is Tarore. This was an 1850’s-something story about this little girl who learned about the love of Christ from the missionaries who came to New Zealand to spread the Gospel. Her story is “Forgiveness Is a Gift of Sacrifice.”
Then we have Louis Zamperini. His is “Forgiveness is a Gift of Freedom.” Kim Anthony is a young woman who was a gymnast, and she had to forgive her father. Her story is “Forgiveness is a Gift of Love.” We have a story about Rwanda. In that country, forgiveness was practiced as a “Gift of Hope”; then, Martin Luther King, Jr., “Forgiveness is a Gift of Peace.”
Bob: There are a lot of misconceptions about forgiveness—about what it is and what it isn’t.
Bob: Through these stories, you’re trying to help people get a clearer picture that forgiveness is not just waving something away and saying, “Okay, it didn’t really bother me”—
Barbara: Yes, that’s right!
Bob: —or, “It doesn’t really matter,” or, “Oh, that’s fine.” You’re really taking us deeper into the fact that forgiveness takes some work; doesn’t it?
Barbara: Yes, yes. It does take work. It takes a lot of work, and some situations are much more difficult than others. Some forgiveness can be offered fairly easily, but some forgiveness may take months or years. I’ve got stories that kind of show the breadth of that because forgiveness isn’t as easy, sometimes, as I think we would like for it to be.
Bob: Do you provide a definition of forgiveness in the book or do the stories kind of define it on their own?
Barbara: I think the stories define it because they show different aspects of it and how it works.
Dennis: When we forgive someone, we give up the right to punish them. You can know if you have forgiven someone for a hurt they caused you—for a wound, for something they’ve said against you—if your hands are open. If your hands are clenched and you are wanting to hurt back, or you’re wanting to point your finger at them and accuse them, then you likely have not forgiven them.
Dennis: Forgiveness says, “I give up the right to keep on punishing you. I relinquish that right and I tell you, ‘I forgive you.’”
Bob: You’re differentiating between forgiveness and reconciliation because you can let go of the hurt and the resentment, and the desire to punish, and still not be reconciled to a friend or a loved one; right?
Dennis: That’s right. There are abusers who have done evil things to little girls and little boys growing up, who may never repent. There may not be reconciliation, at a relational level, with them—
Dennis: —but it doesn’t mean the person, who has been abused, has to be locked up and imprisoned in anger, and resentment, and wanting to punish that other person. They can move through the process, as Barbara was talking about. It probably will take months or years to be able to do that but, finally, give up the right to punish. In the process, you may be thinking you’re letting the other person out of the prison. What is the reality, however, is that you’re the one who is being set free.
Bob: Barbara, in Ephesians, Chapter 4, the Bible says to, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you.” You start the book with a story of someone who understood forgiveness because he first understood that God had forgiven him much.
Barbara: That’s right. I chose to start the book with the story of John Newton who was very aware of his own fallenness, of his own sin, of his own depravity. John Newton grew up with a father who was a sea captain. He, at 11 years of age, went to sea with his father. He was exposed to all the evils, all the wickedness, all the depravity on those ships with men, and their drunkenness, and all that went on on those ships. He adopted that kind of a lifestyle.
Bob: This was in the late 17- or early 1800’s, I believe.
Bob: Most people, if they know the name John Newton at all, know it because he wrote the hymn, Amazing Grace.
Bob: But a lot of people don’t know this back-story. He lived at sea and lived an immoral life as a slave trader for years.
Barbara: Yes, that’s right. When he came to understand his need for a Savior, it was dramatic and it was profound. What motivated him to write the hymn that we all know and love so well--Amazing Grace—was his forgiveness—the forgiveness that he had received from God, even though he didn’t deserve it. Therefore, he wrote Amazing Grace.
It’s important for us to understand that we must first be forgiven. We need to understand how and why God would choose to forgive us; and, “If God can forgive me, then I can forgive you.” I can extend forgiveness to someone else. I think it’s an important concept to understand—that forgiveness is based on our being forgiven, first.
Dennis: Just as John Newton was forgiven much, and as a result, had a story to tell that ultimately played its way out in a song that has endured throughout the ages, every one of our listeners, who has made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, has a story. They have a story of God’s forgiveness of them that is unique to their lives.
I think sometimes we take that for granted. God’s imprint on our lives comes out of that place where we’ve lived. For John Newton, it was in the hold of a ship, where—I mean, he was with a bunch of barbarians—you know, not an easy life at all.
Some of our listeners have come from some pretty tough, rugged backgrounds. In other cases, they’ve come from good homes—from maybe families that raised them to fear God. Perhaps, they avoided a wicked lifestyle. They, too, have a story to tell. All those stories have the common denominator that they were forgiven by God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Bob: The interesting thing for me, too, is that I think we tend to all minimize our own need for forgiveness. In other words, we puff our resume better than it really is. We tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. To really come to terms with the fact that, “No, we’re not as good as we think we are. God is holier than we’ve imagined him to be.” Now, our need for forgiveness becomes more acute because we recognize that our sin is more desperate than we thought it was. We’ve got to get to that point if we’re going to understand God’s reconciling love.
Barbara: Yes. I think the more we can understand our own need for forgiveness, the easier forgiveness, then, becomes. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy. It doesn’t mean that the pain will go away or that the other person will respond favorably; but the more we can understand the grace of God in our lives and our own need for forgiveness, it does make the whole process of forgiving another person more reasonable, more logical, and more obvious.
Dennis: When I was a little boy, forgiveness for me, was that I would make a commitment to Jesus Christ and that God would no longer punish me by sending me to a place called “hell.” It’s interesting in our culture today—we don’t talk a lot about that place, but it is a real place. It does exist, where the wrath of God is poured out against sinners, lawbreakers—of which, I was one.
Here’s the point: Over my lifetime, I now have come to a much more full understanding of what it cost God to forgive me. I’ve also come to grips with how far I miss the mark. The older I get, the more aware I am that, as you were talking about, Bob, I’m not really as good as I’d like to think I am.
Dennis: In fact, the older I get, the more I go, “God really did love me. He really did pursue me.” This is why this message is so important. As we do grow in our understanding of forgiveness, we embrace the love of Jesus Christ. That transforms us and motivates us to want to be right in our relationships and forgive other people.
Bob: You retell the Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers, which is found in the last half of Genesis, in your book. I just wonder, as you were retelling that story, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wonder what I would have done if I had been in Joseph’s situation?” I could kind of see myself going, “I’m going to get some satisfaction here.”
Barbara: Well, you think about who Joseph was in Egypt. He was second in command to Pharaoh.
Dennis: He had the authority to throw his brothers under the bus.
Barbara: He had all kinds of power.
Bob: Under the caravan.
Barbara: Under the caravan. (Laughter) He had a lot of power, and nobody would have thought twice if he had executed them. In that culture—it wasn’t a God-fearing culture, the land of Egypt—he could have easily had their heads if he had wanted to.
Bob: But if he had done that, thinking that there would be some satisfaction at the end of the day, he would have found that his soul was not satisfied with that vengeance that he went after. I think that’s one of the things that, hopefully, people will get as they read through your book.
Bob: The idea that we’re somehow going to find satisfaction in punishing somebody else is a false hope.
Barbara: It is a false hope. I think that’s why I wanted to write these stories for families to read together because I think it helps us so much as moms and dads. We’re always teaching and instructing our kids. We are telling them how to forgive, “You’ve got to forgive your sister;” “Go ask your sister to forgive you;” whatever. We’re constantly instructing.
But when we can sit down with them and we can read a story about Joseph, or we can read a story about John Newton, then, all of a sudden, your kids have a mental image of someone else who did it. It’s not just, “Mom and Dad telling me that I have to do this,” but, “I have a mental image of this person or of that person who did it.” Then they have a better concept of what it might look like in different situations. In essence, what this is—is reading these stories—is giving your children role models. It’s giving them someone to follow, besides your example or your instruction.
Dennis: Real stories about real people. I’ve got a real application for our listeners today. Number one, have you experienced the love of God and the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ? Just because you go to church—just because you’ve always gone there—doesn’t make you a follower of Christ—someone who is committed to Christ, someone who has received the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and being declared, “Not guilty.”
It’s really simple how to do it. You just cry out in prayer and say, “Lord Jesus, be merciful to me, a sinner. Forgive me. Come and reside in me and begin to make me the kind of person you created me to be.” He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and asks Me to come in,” He said, “I will come in. I’ll sup with him. I’ll fellowship with him.” God, in Christ, wants to forgive us; and then, He wants to relate to us on an ongoing basis.
A second application is really for our listeners, who are listening, who there is someone who you need to forgive. As we’ve talked about it, you’ve thought about the name of a person who, at the very mention of him or her, causes your stomach to turn. There is something occurring there that you need to make things right. What is your application point? How do you give up the right to punish that other person? My challenge to you is, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Deal with your resentment, your anger, and your bitterness toward that person and forgive him; forgive her.
Then, third, I think there are a lot of parents listening who need to be much more intentional about training their children—to understand, first of all, what forgiveness is—giving up the right to punish; but, secondly, practicing forgiveness with one another—both husband and wife in the family—but also parent-to-child and child-to-child in the family. There are plenty of ways you’ll be able to take what Barbara has done here and apply it in your family nearly every day (unfortunately).
Bob: These stories are going to give you a lot to talk about, as a family, as you read through them together. That’s part of the design, not just for this devotional, but for all of the devotionals that Barbara has written.
You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out more about how you can receive the new Growing Together in Forgiveness devotional. If you’re interested in the previous titles, Growing Together in Truth; in Courage; in Gratitude, this is a great way to help impress character into the hearts and minds of our children and into our own hearts and minds, at the same time.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on Barbara Rainey’s devotionals, Growing Together in Forgiveness; in Truth; in Courage; and in Gratitude. The website again is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us toll-free for more information about Barbara’s books—1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
Now, we are in the final week of the month of March. I think most of our listeners know that this month we have been hoping to rally listeners in every city where FamilyLife Today is heard, hoping that one family, maybe two, in those cities would step up and become Legacy Partners—monthly supporters of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We’ve heard from a number of you. We just want to say, “Thanks,” to those of you who have called. We’re going to rally folks this week. We’d just like to ask you to consider, if you haven’t called yet and signed on to become a monthly contributor to FamilyLife—these are the folks who provide the financial stability that make this program possible—help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program.
If your family can be one of those families, we want to send you a thank-you gift—a welcome kit that includes a CD with a conversation Dennis and I had about the habits of effective marriages and families. We want to send you a couple of travel mugs that have the FamilyLife logo on them. We’re also going to make available to you, throughout the year, resources for Legacy Partners, designed to help strengthen your marriage and your family.
Again, it’s a part of our way of saying, “Thank you for the monthly support you provide as a Legacy Partner.” Find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the “Legacy Partner” link; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Say, “I want to join the team and become a Legacy Partner.” We just want to say, “Thanks, in advance, for even considering it;” and, “Thanks for tuning in and listening to FamilyLife Today.”
And we want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to hear some powerful stories about forgiveness. Barbara Rainey is going to be with us again tomorrow. Hope you can be with us again, as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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