Forgiveness, O what a terrible word for so many. “I can forgive, but I will never forget”; “You don’t know how much that person hurt me”; “God could never forgive such terrible evil, so why should I.” So many excuses, so many reasons to never let go, to hold onto the hurt, the pain, the hatred.
There is an old phrase that say’s “not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Forgiveness is not inherent in us; retribution, retaliation, vengeance is, and because of our sin nature these can come quite easily to us, whether in action or in our thoughts. It can take very little for some to be hurt, a simple word unintentionally spoken, a sideways glance, even just jesting with someone in good humor can lead to feelings of resentment, jealousy, envy and even wrath. To harbor these thoughts of unforgiveness is to invite pain into our lives, and, if a root of bitterness begins to grow within us, our fellowship with the Lord can be interrupted.
“Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) The harvest of an unrepentant heart in this area is a bitter fruit, and as you tend to it, help it to mature, it will poison you. Cruelty will find fine soil there, strife will blossom, hatred will grow like a rampant weed and slowly choke out whatever love was there, not only for others, but for yourself, for this creeping vine of unforgiveness, this hatred, will begin to choke out your very soul. Satan will have won the battle, yet the victory is the Lords.
Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will fight this battle, there are no exceptions. We don’t need other people around to hurt us, we can do a fine job of that ourselves, for who if not ourselves, are we the least likely to not forgive. Something in our past that we said or did, something that is not always in our mind, but when that thing from the past rears it’s ugly head, we feel the renewed shame, the disgust in ourselves. Have you ever thought that perhaps Col. 3:13 and other verses about forgiveness are not only speaking about forgiving others, but also ourselves. Dare we to put ourselves into a place above God, who through His wonderful Son forgave all of our sins, yet we cannot forgive our own self. This does not mean that we would ever flippantly disregard the actions that we committed, or the cruel words we spoke, but it does mean that if God can put them as far as the east is from the west, (Psalm 103:12) we must also. If we cannot forgive ourselves because of the love He has for us, how can we ever truly forgive others.
Our Lord will never force us to forgive, but He will allow the consequences of an unforgiving heart to bring trials and tribulations into our lives. When we refuse to forgive someone, our fellowship with our Savior is broken, though His great love for us continues. This type of suffering that He allows can be the deepest, most sorrowful time of our lives, for though he still loves us deeply, He is not listening, not to our prayers or our request, and we are well aware of it. The unrepentant sin of not forgiving someone is keenly felt in the heart of the believer, and when He withdraws His presence from us, we truly feel the loss. We have forgotten that Christ died for us, for our sins, that we have been forgiven beyond measure, we begin to feel superior to the one who has harmed us, not recalling that “while we were yet sinners…” (Rom. 5:8)
If the person who has hurt you is also a child of The Most High God, all the worse, for now the unity of the body of Christ is broken, damage has been done, and the path that He has set forth can longer be traveled. The wide gap of unforgiveness has left a canyon that cannot be crossed, and until true repentance and forgiveness is given on our part, even our prayers will fall on deaf ears. There are many, many bridges on the passageway to heaven, all of them made by those who know how to forgive. It matters not that the party that has injured you accepts your heartfelt words of forgiveness, hopefully they will, but it your responsibility in the Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to ask their forgiveness for the actions, words or even thoughts that you have committed towards them. The character of Christ cannot continue to grow within you until this is done.
No hint of a grudge must be left behind, no partial atonement, no half-hearted embellishment will suffice. Do not fool yourself, you will not forget the incident, it will always be a part of your memory, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, and only by His wonderful mercies, each time this past pain comes to mind, you will see it differently. There will be no animosity, no strife, no discord within your soul. True forgiveness has no selfishness attached to it, no vanity, only love.
Praise God in the highest in this moment, for He has blessed you beyond measure. He has begun to draw you closer to Himself, He is making you into the image of His son, He is showing you just how much you were forgiven.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
How great a love.