Few things are more difficult than forgiveness.
Unresolved conflict has tentacles that meander in directions we never anticipated. Soon its grip on us is decisive and deadly. It kills our joy, ruins relationships and casts an ominous shadow over all we do.
It can even disguise itself.
We believe the matter is settled, yet we can’t explain the outbursts of anger, our increasingly caustic attitude or the little roots of bitterness that seem to permeate most of our conversations.
Soon there are headaches, ulcers and a weariness that won’t leave us even after a good night’s sleep.
It is a bleak, depressing picture.
Even a cursory evaluation reveals the fallacy of clinging to resentment. Yet we do that very thing as if it were our most precious asset.
Why is it so hard for us to forgive? Why is it easier said than done?
Perhaps as you read this, your mind reflects upon years of hurt and abuse. Images that won’t disappear resurface time and again.
“How can I forgive?” has crossed your mind countless times. Maybe you have tried, or even prayed about it, but the struggle remains.
Please, allow me to share some thoughts that may help.
In Scripture, the word “forgive” means to release or to yield up something.
Harboring resentment means we are keeping some sort of emotional ledger of the wrongs we have endured. We somehow hope to exact vengeance from those who have hurt us, and if we cannot “get even,” we would at least like to see something hurtful happen to our offenders.
Forgiveness means to erase all of those accounts.
If you feel this is a step you cannot take, please consider the following:
· Forgiveness is an act of obedience. Jesus commanded his followers to pray as he did, and his prayer was clear: “Father, forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us,” Luke 11:4.
We may think we have a right to treasure our feelings of malice, but if we indulge in any form of disobedience, the consequences fall upon our shoulders.
· Forgiveness means a change of focus. It takes our attention off ourselves and helps us trust Christ more. Our dependency should always be upon him.
He became the perfect model of forgiveness when he looked down from the cross at those who were crucifying him and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,” Luke 23:34.
He turned the whole painful event over to the one who has said, “Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” Romans 12:18,19.
· Forgiveness means freedom. Undoubtedly you have heard the saying, “He who angers us, controls us.”
Those who have hurt us may not remember it, or even realize it. It certainly doesn’t occupy a prominent place in their thinking.
Our grief sometimes seems unbearable, and those who caused it skate through life without a clue.
When we forgive them, releasing their words and actions to the Lord, a burden is lifted. The emotional baggage that haunted us is gone.
· Forgiveness is almost always undeserved. Don’t wait for the ones who have offended you to come and ask for your forgiveness. That is not likely to happen. More often than not, they will go on hurting others. Remember, if this is the right thing to do, it does not depend upon their worthiness.
Jesus Christ was willing to forgive us when we did not deserve it.
· Finally, forgiveness comes from the heart. This is the truth taught in Matthew 18:35. It follows a poignant parable taught by Jesus to his disciples.
Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21.
Peter thought he was being generous. The rabbis of that time taught that three times was sufficient.
I also find it interesting that Peter was sure others would sin against him, but had no thought about causing hurt himself.
Jesus took this opportunity to teach that there should be no limits or measures on forgiveness. The parable that follows is a vivid example of how egregious it is to not forgive.
Are you ready to step out by faith and forgive those who have hurt you?
I challenge you to pour your heart out to the one who wants to carry your burden.
“Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28.
Phil Reemtsma is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, 208 Lawton Drive in Kenai. The church Web site is www.kenaicalvary.org. Reemtsma’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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