Fidelity and Forgiveness

I hope by giving full credit and recognition it is permissible to reproduce in full the following Daily Devotion from Chuck Swindoll here in my blog.  I get these devotionals in my email from Insight for Living Ministries (www.Insight.org).  I have an abiding respect for Pastor Swindoll and this one hit a critical target for Lynn and me.  Now, hopefully, for you.  It addresses an oft misunderstood, but crucial element of Christianity: Forgiveness.

What about Fidelity?
by Chuck Swindoll
Proverbs 6:27-29, 32-33

I remember returning from our nation’s capital where I was privileged to spend time with many of the highest ranking officers in the military.  If you have ever wondered if there is anyone in the upper echelon of the military who loves Christ, wonder no longer.  Many of these men and women are magnificent models of strong Christian commitment who frequently put their faith on the line.

While sitting around a table one morning the subject of moral purity surfaced.  They spoke of the importance of an officer’s having a clean record and maintaining strong character traits if he or she hoped to be trusted in larger realms and promoted to higher ranks.  Their commitment to personal integrity was expressed so spontaneously and sincerely.

As I listened to them, I was humiliated to think that a standard of high moral character was still of paramount importance among military officers while within the ranks of the clergy an epidemic of impurity rages.

As Christian leaders, we need to reaffirm our commitment to moral purity and to private lives that are absolutely free of secret sins.  While forgiveness continues to be the pulse-beat of grace-oriented ministry, a firm commitment to holiness remains vital.  Those who adopt a deceptive, compromising life of hypocrisy are responsible for the damage that occurs when they are found out.  Nor are the consequences erased, even though they may repent and seek the Lord’s and others’ forgiveness.

Often, we are too quick to breeze past the damage that has been done, attempting to hurry the process of forgiveness at the expense of the restoration process.  A contrite heart has no expectations and makes no demands; it acknowledges that the deception and the extent of continued sin result in the continued forfeiture of many of the privileges that were once enjoyed.  Please read that again.  If you’ve gotten soft on this issue, stop and read the daily [Scripture] reading suggested above.  Don’t try to explain these verses away.  They mean EXACTLY (emphasis Greg’s) what they say.

The issue here is not a lack of forgiveness; it’s the faulty thinking that forgiveness is synonymous with the returning of all rights and privileges.

Never has the truth of Peter’s words resounded more clearly: “It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” (1 Pet. 4:17).

As believers we need to reaffirm our commitment to moral purity and to private lives that are absolutely free of secret sins.

Did you catch it?  Do you see it?  Private lives that are absolutely free of secret sin.  A firm commitment to holiness is vital.  We, you and I, are entirely responsible for the damage we’ve caused … not your wife, not the addiction, not our brains being hijacked, not the devil … ME.  The consequences of my actions are what they are regardless of forgiveness being extended.  You’ve got to embrace this reality because it is, and always has been, reality.

“Often we are too quick to breeze past the damage that has been done, ….”  Forgiveness cannot be hurried.  It is a process unto itself.  Yes, it is Biblical and yes, it is necessary for the Spiritual and emotional health and well-being of the betrayed; not the betrayer.  “A contrite heart has no expectations and makes no demands;”  This is SO GOOD, Chuck.  Thank you.  You (I) sacrificed your marriage and your standing in your family and your church to the idols of lust and self.  You chose lies over truth, fantasy over reality.  You no longer have a say in restoration or not.  Your heart, if it is truly contrite, accepts that truth.

“… it’s the faulty thinking that forgiveness is synonymous with the returning of all rights and privileges.”  Or that all will be forgotten.  It is not synonymous and it will not be forgotten.  Ever.  The reality is that you’ve committed adultery – yes, pornography is adultery (reference here).  Your spouse may do the godly and healthy thing and extend heartfelt forgiveness.  This frees her from the negative effects of not forgiving, but your marriage may not survive.  Forgiveness does not negate consequences.  Nor does it erase the memory.  God has the ability (THANK YOU!!) to forgive and forget.  In my church background those Scriptures have often been misused by assigning an attribute of God’s abilities to mere mortals.  Made in His image?  Absolutely.  Image, however, doesn’t equate to ability.  I am not able to see the hearts of men or be everywhere at the same time or plug a volcano with my finger.  He can.  Do the memories fade?  Yes, I believe they do, with time and the Grace of God, but that’s a purely personal journey.  Lynn calls it background noise, a constant anguish, that is her daily companion.  Yes, it is quieting over time and with our restoration.  But the minions of the evil one know our triggers and sometimes Lynn and I must revisit the noise.  Praise God it is slowly fading.  I don’t know that it will ever completely disappear.  Consequences.

I can’t say how all this looks in your experience but I know it CANNOT be rushed, pushed nor even expected.  I also know without any doubt it cannot be accomplished without the deep abiding Love of God our Father, Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, who want more than anything for your marriage to be SET FREE, to be HIS best; to bring us all back into relationship with them.