Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Should We Forgive Ourselves Or Should We Receive His Forgiveness?

Given the fact that Christmas is only a couple days away and that Jesus sanctified the womb, I thought this testimony from Mary Poplin, from her book, "Is Reality Secular?" might be helpful to some:

"When I began to follow Christ, I grew deeply remorseful over my two abortions.  It was undeniable to me that I chose this solely to make my life more carefree.  I am certain problems remain in my body, soul and spirit that directly relate to those decisions.  Historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese wrote about the cultural mindsets that have led to an explosion in abortions worldwide.

'How have the advocates of abortion convinced vast numbers of people . . . that women's prospects for happiness and self-realization depend upon unrestricted access to abortion?  The simple answer lies in their success in convincing people that full personhood for women depends upon becoming truly equal to men---which effectively means securing freedom from their bodies and, especially, from children.  The more complicated answer arises from the assumptions of our culture as a whole, especially its escalating sexual permissiveness, its loss of spiritual direction, its pathological fear of human mortality and the related cult of youth, its dedication to instant gratification and disdain for sacrifice, and perhaps most portentously, its abandonment of children.'

"For several years after my conversion to Christianity, I repented over and over for my abortions, unsure whether this most merciful and brilliant God I was just learning to trust could really forgive me for what I now believed was a grievous sin.  When I arrived at Mother Teresa's, I was assigned to work with sick and handicapped infants; there are no coincidences in Judeo-Christian understandings.  After my return from Calcutta I was at a monastery where we were invited to write on a small index card the names of people we were promising to forgive on one side and the things for which we wanted to be forgiven on the other.  We would burn the cards on an altar outdoors during evening prayers.

"At the head of my list were my two abortions, on the other side of the card was a list of people I was committing to forgive.  I put the list in my pocket and began to walk along the river that runs through the monastery's land.  All at once I heard a male voice in my spirit clearly say, 'Who are "you" not to forgive someone "I" have forgiven?'  I stopped, stunned and confused by the question that had appeared in my spirit.  Not understanding, I walked further, and the same question came again.  I examined my list for missing persons and started forward when the voice recurred yet a third time.  Then I stopped, knelt in the grass, looked up at the sky and said aloud, 'Lord, I don't know what you are talking about.'  Into my spirit the Lord spoke one more time, '"I" forgave you the first time you asked me, and I do not want you to ask me again.'''

"Many people had suggested I just needed to confess and forgive myself, but that is not what the Lord was saying to me.  He was telling me 'Who do you think "you" are?  "You" do not have the authority to forgive yourself.  "I" have forgiven you; it is only "I" who can forgive you, and "I: have already done so.'  I did not need to continue rationalizing that abortion was not all that bad, or was legal, or that many people did it.  Nor did I need to remain guilty and try to work off some sort of self-designed penance.  I was forgiven and thus free; my staying bound was my choice, and it was limiting my life.  My many attempts to forgive myself were never really finished;  I always went back and tried again.  Things that are not true never completely work.

"For a year I searched the Scriptures testing the revelation and discovered there is not a single Judeo-Christian Scripture that suggests we can or should forgive ourselves.  Not one person in the Bible does this or is told to do it.  Working to forgive myself was an act of pride, a rejection of the free gift of grace already purchased by Christ, who had taken on the sins of the world that only a perfect life could bear.

"One of the first times I told this story in public, a young woman came up to me crying and said, 'Yes, but I had an abortion after I was a Christian.'  But David was forgiven for sleeping with Bathsheba and killing her husband Uriah long after he knew God.  Most of us unnecessarily carry our sin with us like a permanent companion or karma, something we anesthetize with our human reason.  But David simply cried out to God,

'Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!' (Psalm 51:1-2)"

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