Forgiveness Isn’t What You Think It Is

When someone hurts you, you’re supposed to forgive them. If you don’t the only person you’re hurting is yourself, right?
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Wrong.
It’s a nice concept, I suppose. But it’s simply not biblical. Forgiveness has become a very fuzzy term. It’s now a general attitude of warmth and forgetfulness toward an offender, regardless of the offender’s feelings or actions toward us. However, in the Bible, forgiveness is not unconditional. 
Forgiveness is the action of absolving a person of blame, not a feeling of general goodwill towards that person. We are commanded to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32) (Matthew 6:12) (Colossians 3:13). We are to forgive in the same manner, in a similar way. When does God forgive us? When we confess our sins. Why then, would God hold us to a higher standard of forgiveness than He himself does? The answer is that he doesn’t. Forgiveness is not unconditional, even though love is.

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Speaking of brother in the neighbor sense, not as a brother in Christ) Luke 17:3-4

The verse above indicates that we rebuke a person who sins, not forgive them. If he repents, we are to forgive him. Forgiveness is transactional. It’s a covenant of sorts: an agreement between two people. The pattern of church discipline in Matthew 18 is similar. We are not to receive a believer who has sinned grievously back into fellowship until he has repented of his sin.

There is no example in the Bible where a sinner is clearly unrepentant and is forgiven anyway, where he is absolved of all the punishment of sin. Forgiveness is meaningless unless it has an effect, and its effect is the mutual reconciliation of two parties, which can only take place if both parties are willing. If I invite guests into my home, and they steal from me and don’t regret stealing from me, why would I invite them back into my home? My forgiveness means nothing to them, because they don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong.

I think that we often confuse forgiveness with love. We are not commanded to forgive our enemies, but we are commanded to love everyone (Matthew 5:44). Forgiveness is a contract. Love, on the other hand, is not.

Thank God.

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Top Ten Ships

And so, Valentine’s Week comes to a close. To end it, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite ships from movies, television, and books. Let us know what romances you like to see develop in the comments below!

  1. Peony said Pam & Jim from The Office. No top 10 list would be complete without these two, and for obvious reasons. Fans of the show were rooting for them from the very first episode. Theirs is the quintessential office romance, but what I love most about this couple is how much they grew together. One of my favorite scenes is from “Paper Airplane” (season 9, episode 20). Their marriage was experiencing serious strain – gone were the inside jokes and Jim’s wistful glances to the reception desk. At the end of the episode, through a series of attempts to reconcile, they finally break past their frustrations and embrace, with 1 Corinthians 13 narrating over the scene. Their relationship has known tenderness, and it has also faced some very real challenges, and that speaks volumes to couples who follow in their footsteps. Because let’s face it, we’re all waiting for our Jim Halpert.
  1. Petunia said Cory & Topanga from Boy Meets World. Everyone wants a love story like theirs. Elementary school, then high school, then college sweethearts, then marriage. They’re touted as a “perfect couple” but throughout the show’s 7 seasons they dealt with some very real issues like cheating and Cory feeling emasculated. They fought but Cory always understood what being committed to someone was—working things out no matter what. Now their love story continues on the spinoff Girl Meets World.
  1. Peony said Leslie & Ben from Parks and Recreation. My favorite power couple! Leslie and Ben balance their government work, triplets, and one solid rock of a marriage. These two are fiercely selfless, constantly putting each other before themselves. When they were presented with the opportunity to run for governor of Indiana, they had trouble deciding who would be best for the job, both insisting the other was more qualified (season 7, episode 12/13). The way they support and encourage each other is downright admirable. In a culture that seems to find humor in dysfunctional marriage, Leslie and Ben prove that selflessness is not only more fun, but that it’s something to strive for.
  1. Petunia said Oliver & Felicity from Arrow: The crack ship that became the strongest relationship of the series, Olicity came out of nowhere but also didn’t. These two started as team members, saving the city from the bad guys, but became team members in a much deeper way. They stood by each other, but they didn’t let each other get away with bad decisions or damaging thought patterns, which I feel like is often romanticized and shouldn’t be. They remind each other of the light in the world, and they keep each other fighting to make sure there’s more light in it.
  1. Peony said Jo & Friedrich from Little Women: I know I already mentioned Little Women in the top 10 romance movies list, but I simply had to go into more detail on these two. They make my heart melt, plain and simple. Friedrich is a kind, sentimental introvert who slowly falls for the worldly, feisty Jo. But they aren’t just another case of opposites attract. Despite their differences, they work quite well together. Friedrich encourages Jo to “write from life, from the depths of your soul”, and because of that advice, she pens her greatest work. Jo’s passion moves Friedrich to step out of his comfort zone, leaving his quiet, solitary life to become a husband and father. They’re just so timelessly sweet together. It’s the old romance – I can’t get enough of it.
  1. Petunia said Peeta & Katniss from The Hunger Games: Love is hard in the Hunger Games, but they made it work, at some times better than others. They protected each other, and they got through the trauma together. They have a kind of unusual relationship as far as gender roles go, but I’m not against it. I rooted for them through three books, and was so happy when they made it, despite everything.
  1. Peony said Lucy & Ricky from I Love Lucy: There’s some interesting history here. Lucy and Ricky (portrayed by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) were the first interracial TV couple. However, they weren’t just written for each other – they were actually married in real life, which definitely added to their chemistry. When the show premiered in 1951, interracial relationships were not widely accepted, but America quickly fell in love with this hilariously beleaguered duo. They showed us that love means being silly together, and crossing some boundaries while we’re at it.
  1. Petunia said Betsy & Joe from The Betsy-Tacy Series: I read these books many, many times when I was younger. What I love most about them is how realistic they seemed, and now that I’m older I see how realistic they actually are. Maybe I love Betsy and Joe so much because I identify with Betsy so much, but the relatability of their off-on-off-on friendship/romance would be hard for anyone to deny. Betsy and Joe were attracted to each other from the start, even as just friends, but it never felt right. Until it did. The friendly essay competitions, the cherry blossoms, the tentative friendship, the letters they wrote to each other over summer break, the dance at the junior ball…<3
  1. Peony said Fran & Maxwell from The Nanny: These two toyed with my heart for years. They’re the couple you know will get together by the end of the series, but until then you have to wait in agony, crying out, just love each other already! When they finally wed, it’s so satisfying. Fran is bright and genuine, and loves the Sheffield children dearly. Shenanigans aside, Maxwell can’t help but fall for her. They’re clunky, offbeat, and I can’t help but love them. And to think – she almost quit on the first day!
  1. Petunia said Gilbert & Anne from Anne of Green Gables: It’s a trope, and it can definitely be overused, but the love-hate relationship never gets old to me. Elizabeth and Darcy brought us to Gilbert and Anne, and I’m so thankful that they did. Gil was in love with Anne for years, but she couldn’t see him as anything more than her closest friend. She was in love with a fantasy, but eventually realized that she never needed anything but what she already had in Gilbert. Whether it’s in book or film form, I eat it up.

What are your favorite love stories? Let us know!

Learning to be Happy (for Others)

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With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I thought it was appropriate to address an issue that many young people in the Christian community face today: learning to be happy for newly engaged couples while we endure the endless stream of “when will you find a boyfriend?” at every family gathering.

It can be hard to be happy for others. Maybe you’re wanting to focus on other things, but you feel distracted by the pesky desire to be in a relationship. Maybe you’re actually trying to find a partner, but not having much luck. Whatever the case may be, watching everyone pair off around you can be a source of stress and frustration. You may find yourself growing callous and cynical toward the blissfully unaware lovebirds, gagging at even the most subtle exchanges they share. This is all in good humor, of course. Hating love is the cool thing to do right now, especially if you’re a single twentysomething. So cast your stones! Boo and hiss! But be sure to counteract it with awkward jokes that mask how exasperated you really are.

Is it possible we’ve let this go too far? When scorn becomes the standard reaction to other people’s happiness, there’s definitely a problem, especially for Christians. It’s selfish, jealous behavior, and we need to stop excusing it under the pretense of trying to be funny. Singlehood will pass – why spend it being disgruntled? The Bible calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). So let’s start rejoicing. Couples need love and support from their friends. Be genuinely happy for them. Attend the weddings with well wishes. Pray that their relationships will be centered in the Lord, and that they’ll grow in Him together. You’ll need prayers too, when your time finally comes. Trust me, it will.

Top Ten Love Songs

In no particular order…

  1. Peony is hopelessly obsessed with The Everglow by Mae: Where to even begin? The Everglow has been a personal favorite of mine for years, for a blazing myriad of reasons. However, for now, I’ll have to try to focus solely on the romance. It’s about giving oneself fully and fearlessly to love, and it’s illustrated by idyllic lyrics, casting warm, whimsical light into the mind of the listener. It’s a song that has to be experienced.
  2. Petunia’s pick is God Gave Me You by Dave Barnes: A famous country singer later hijacked this song, which I will never forgive. I still love it though, no matter who sings it. It’s about being thankful for someone God has placed in your life to help you through things, even though you feel like you don’t deserve the someone.
  3. Peony’s inspired by The Only Exception by Paramore: One of Paramore’s softer songs, The Only Exception is an honest piece about the apprehension one may feel about falling in love. It speaks of a cynic who has only ever seen relationships fall apart, and this shapes her attitude toward love. Thinking that it will inevitably lead to pain, she becomes comfortable in solitude, not wanting to risk anything. But through the course of this vulnerable story, our beloved cynic comes to know sweet trust, and that sometimes our beliefs change for the better and brighter.
  4. Petunia can’t get enough of Poison & Wine by the Civil Wars: So, maybe this doesn’t qualify as a love song, because the lyrics leave you guessing as to whether the two singers are really in love or not. It’s a slow, acoustic tune, with some beautiful harmonies and soul-wrenching lyrics. Never over-simplistic, and hardly optimistic, I can listen to this song over and over without getting bored. Plus, I love everything by the Civil Wars, so that helps.
  5. Peony wants to dance to Candlelight by Relient K: The artistic genius is strong with this one. Candlelight is sweet, upbeat and clever. With a bouncing, rustic sound and lyrics that could charm the heart of any lady, this song is sure to bring a little light to your day. It may even make you want to go swing dancing. It makes me want to go swing dancing.
  6. Petunia gets all the feels from Love You Forever by Ryan Huston: ‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always.’ I love this song forever, and like it for always because it’s equally about friendship and romance. There’s nothing more romantic, in my opinion, than being someone’s friend no matter what life throws at either of you. As of this moment, this is one of the songs I’m considering playing for the first dance at my wedding reception. Not that I necessarily need to be worrying about that in the near future.
  7. Peony loves Every Little Thing by Hawk Nelson: This one comes to us from Hawk Nelson’s glory days. It’s the sweetest, most sincere song, and it’s sung with so much conviction that I can’t help but sigh “awwww” every time. This song made me want to be like the mysterious, spiritual woman that Jason Dunn was so smitten with, largely due to the fact that I wanted Jason Dunn to be smitten with me.
  8. Petunia adores When You Look at Me by Celine Dion: When I hear this song, the words and the melody and the voice evoke a sense of timelessness, of love that lasts no matter what goes on in the world outside. Although the words seem to convey an unhealthy amount of dependence on the object of the singer’s affection, I really appreciate the artistry of the song. It’s all very dramatic. And I’m all about the drama.
  9. Peony geeks out about Just Not Now from I Love You Because (A Modern Day Musical Love Story): I do love my musical numbers. Our leading lady, Marcy, admits that she wants to be in love, but recognizes that she’s not ready for it yet. She knows her emotional limits, and that it’s not wise to jump into relationships so suddenly. This song has been an anchor of mine for a while. It reminds me that it’s OK to take things slow and not give way to emotions that are often fleeting.
  10. Petunia jams out to Hold Back the River by James Bay: Oh, the Bayster. What a voice! This song is about reconnecting with someone you shouldn’t have let get away. The words are tender, the melodies are strong, and my heart is melting. Go listen to it. Stop reading this list. I’m appalled that you got this far without checking out some of these songs.

Let’s Value Losing Things

I think we may have a tendency to over-value romantic relationships.
As someone who highly values romantic relationships, I feel qualified to say this. I’ve been obsessed, really obsessed, since I was very young. I played out romantic plotlines with Legos, Barbies, Fashion Polly, Playmobile, salt and pepper shakers, water balloons, kitchen utensils, stuffed animals—you name it. I play out romantic situations in my head daily with people I’m hardly interested in, just for the fun of it. I watch the Bachelor and Bachelorette religiously, just because I like to analyze different relationships. I love playing relationship counselor to my friends who are in relationships.
So obsessed.

best-friends-329333_960_720But when I look at my life, I realize that no matter how much mental time I devote to relationships, my physical time is spent on other kinds of relationships very much outside of a romantic context. I have relationships with my siblings and with my mom, with church leaders, with mentors, ith children and young adults that I mentor, with friends both male and female. These relationships have added so much value to my life, despite the fact that I don’t spend time daydreaming about them. And of course, there’s the *small* matter of a relationship with God.

When you really like someone, it’s easy to make all the time in the world for them. Sometimes it’s hard to prioritize relationships with family and friends because they simply aren’t as exciting. I certainly don’t think they’re as fun to think about. But really, they’re just as important.

A lot of romantic fantasies from a girl’s perspective have to do with a guy wanting to do anything for them. We don’t fantasize about being willing to do anything for a guy. So when I spend a lot of mental energy thinking about how nice it would be to have someone devoted to my every whim, I’m really devoting myself to my own selfishness. And we’re not even talking about a real situation here.

Let’s focus on the relationships that are in our lives already, and let’s focus on them in an unselfish way. Adding value to someone else’s life coincidentally adds value to your own. Let’s value losing things. Let’s value sacrificing what we want for what other people want, whether in a romantic context or not.

Top Ten Romance Films

Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, we decided to put together a list of our favorite romantic movies for you, because, well, we’re sappy. Comment with some of your favorites! ❤

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Petunia: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

This movie has topped my mental chart of romantic comedies since the day I first saw it. In order to write a how-to article, a magazine writer has to make a guy want to break up with her. He won’t. And things get crazy. While I like this movie more because of the laughs than the romance, the two leads are ridiculously likable. I’ve watched this movie more times than I can count, and I never get tired of it.

 

 

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Peony: My Big Fat Greek Wedding

What strikes me about this story is that it shows the importance of being patient in love. Due to the constant pressure to get married, Toula felt like she was past her prime. But each life is different, and love doesn’t always come a’knocking when we think it should. Instead of spiraling into an early midlife crisis, Toula tried new things, honed her confidence, and learned to be content with her life. She became a better person for it. So when Ian finally came along, she was ready for him, and it was well worth the wait.

 

 

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Petunia: Austenland

The story of a girl obsessed with Jane Austen who takes a vacation in a Jane Austen theme park. The lines between fiction and reality start to blur. As an Austenite, as Jane Austen fans call themselves (I took a whole class on her work), I’m bound to love pretty much everything that has anything to do with Jane. She was a master of the romance novel, and almost all movies inspired to shadow her genius. Austenland is hilarious, romantic, and really, really fun to watch.

 

 

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Peony: The Phantom of the Opera

This one is a huge guilty pleasure of mine. It’s indulgently dramatic, and I can promise you that you’ll be belting out those musical numbers for days. It’s such a fun watch, especially if you just let yourself get sucked into the desperately beautiful tragedy.

 

 

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Petunia: 500 Days of Summer

This film appeals to my angst. If you’re looking for something happy to watch, definitely look elsewhere on this list. But if you watch films to think deeply about life and not to procrastinate on tasks that require deep thinking, this will make you consider some interesting things about interpersonal relationships. Boy meets girl, or has he really met the girl? The camera takes you forward and backward through the 500 days of their relationship, examining their interactions from multiple angles. It’s thought-provoking as well as entertaining.

 

 

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Peony: One Night with the King

This is the film adaptation of the story of Esther. It’s worth a watch for its stunning visuals alone, but watching the scriptures unfold in all their cinematic glory is the real hook. It stays true to the crux of the source material –to trust and obey the Lord, and to be ready to answer His call–but it does not shy away from the romance at all. It’s perfect for movie night at the ladies Bible study.

 

 

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Petunia: A Walk to Remember

Ah, Nicholas Sparks. Bring on the tissues. Just kidding. I’m not really a crier—although this film brought me a little too close to the waterworks for comfort. It’s a tender story: a Romeo and Juliet high-school romance. The characters are caricatures, but who cares? I’m not ashamed of my love of the sappy. Call me a maple tree.

 

 

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Peony: Little Women

This film (and book and musical) awakens the hopeless romantic within me. There’s something charming and moving about classical love, and I succumb to it every time. Jo’s journey through the drama of young love and into a sweet and solid marriage is something I wish for myself. That being said, I’m still torn between Laurie and Friedrich.

 

 

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Petunia: The Princess Bride

Arguably one of the most tongue-in-cheek love stories every produced—The Princess Bride is as much anti-romance as romance. Westley and Buttercup are 20 romantic tropes rolled up into one fairytale couple. As a huge fan of the book, this was my favorite movie, bar none, for years. It’s got fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles. The movie’s got everything, and will appeal to you no matter what kind of movies you prefer.

 

 

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Peony: Meet Me in St. Louis

Talk about show tunes! This film has a special place in my heart. It’s a favorite of my grandmother, who was a big fan of Judy Garland. It’s a simple, sweet little film with awkward crushes turned to budding romance, swanky parties, and of course Judy’s magnificent vibrato. Relatable even to this day!