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Forgiveness, though uncomfortable, is necessary, Elizabeth Luter says

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Forgiveness is an uncomfortable, though necessary, issue to confront, Elizabeth Luter said.

“This is not going to be a feel-good class,” Luter, women’s ministry director at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, said in class during Black Church Leadership Week Aug. 5-9 at LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center.

“God is going to get into your issues. Most of you are here because you have a personal problem with forgiveness or you know somebody who does. Either way, it’s a personal issue that isn’t fun to deal with.”

Forgiveness is “a beautiful word until you have something to forgive,” Luter said, quoting the author C.S. Lewis.

“I used to hold grudges and was a very unforgiving person,” Luter acknowledged. “I’ve gotten better, and now I can forgive over time.”

But Luter said God has told her, “You don’t have that much time. You need to forgive immediately.”

“So often God speaks to us, and we say we’ll get around to it. God doesn’t want us to wait. He wants us to act now,” said Luter, wife of Fred Luter, pastor of the Franklin Avenue congregation.

Luter referenced the book “Free to Forgive” by Robert Jeffress and Susan A. Lanford in which myths about forgiveness are examined and questions of how, why and when to forgive are explored.

“Ninety percent of Christians are unforgiving over trivial things,” Luter said. “When I have a hard time forgiving someone for making fun of me, God places a story of true forgiveness in my path. He shows me what it means to forgive someone for murder or rape, and I realize that what I’m harboring isn’t that significant.

“God knows what causes us to hurt. He made us and he understands us.”

Christians must look at life with some perspective, Luter said, asking, “If you can’t forgive something that is trivial, what is going to happen when a real issue occurs in your life?”

Many personality traits prevent people from forgiving, Luter noted. Those who are easily insulted or offended often struggle with forgiveness, as do those who have a strong attitude against injustice, she said.

Many people struggle with forgiveness because they feel it denies the seriousness of sin or lets people off the hook too easily, Luter added.

“Just because you forgive someone does not mean that they will not still suffer the consequences,” she said. “You can forgive your husband for not sending you child support, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t pay the consequences for breaking the law.”

Another myth about forgiveness, she said, is that Christians must also forget as well as forgive.

“Forgiveness is a thing of the heart, and forgetting is a thing of the brain, and that’s not how our brain works,” Luter said. “God does not forget what we do. He does not hold them against us as sins if we’ve repented, but the Bible says we will have to give an account of what we’ve done. We have been released from the obligation of our sin, but not from the consequences.”

Forgiveness is freeing, Luter reflected.

“The best reason to forgive is for your benefit. If we hold grudges against others, you are not being punished by God, but you are in fact punishing yourself.”

Approximately 1,300 people attended Black Church Leadership Week. The conference was sponsored by five Southern Baptist Convention entities — LifeWay Christian Resources, International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Annuity Board and Woman’s Missionary Union. To learn more about the book, “Free to Forgive,” visit www.lifewaystores.com.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FOSTER FORGIVENESS.

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  • Brandy Campbell