If You Find It Hard to Forgive
"Your Honor," said the aged man, "my son cannot return to me. I now have no one to love. Please send this young man to my home to be my son."
Forgiveness. It is so hard. Our wounds are deep. Our hurts are real. "It's not fair!" we cry.
What makes it so difficult for us to forgive the one who offends us? Wanting to punish that person? Trying to make him suffer as much as we have? (Or more!) Thinking that by withholding our love and acceptance we can somehow even the score?
The root, of course, is a ME-focus. And that is exactly where Satan wants our focus to be. He comes to kill and destroy, and he knows that a ME-focus will destroy us, as well as our relationships.
A ME-focus ultimately harms me more than anyone else. We all know the physical ailments caused by harboring unforgiveness--ulcers, high blood pressure, even arthritis. Not only is our physical energy drained, but emotionally we become depressed.
Furthermore, that negative emotional focus on our offender makes us become like the very one we hate!
Unforgiveness destroys our interpersonal relationships, and that, in turn, affects our relationship with God. God says we do not know Him if we do not love our brother (1 John 4:8). In I Corinthians 13:5 we read that love does not keep a record of wrongs.
If we are not at peace with a brother, we cannot receive the grace of God. Bitterness will spring up to trouble us at every turn (Hebrews 12:14, 15).
Even more sobering, God says, "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15). Without God's forgiveness, we face His wrath and eternal punishment.
Jesus tells the story of a servant who owed a debt totaling millions of dollars. The servant begged for time to "pay all." The compassionate master, recognizing the impossibility of his servant's ever paying the debt, cancelled it completely. Now that is forgiveness!
However, this servant found a fellowservant who owed him a few dollars and demanded prompt payment. Since the man could not pay, the forgiven servant had him thrown into prison until he could "pay all."
The angry master called the first servant to him. "O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all.... Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord ... delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all.... So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Matthew 18:32-35).
By faith act upon that choice. Forgiveness and love are shown by actions. Actions bring feelings. "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them" (Matthew 5:44). Try that in reverse order!
Pray daily for your offender. Do some good on his behalf. Verbally affirm him. Love will come.
But, you say, I cannot forget. True, memories may not go away, but God changes our attitude, and when we have truly forgiven, the memories no longer carry their original sting.
Thank God for working out His purposes. God uses suffering to accomplish His higher plan in our lives and the lives of others. Thus, on the cross Jesus could pray, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). His suffering brought us eternal life.
The Bible also tells of Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery. He forgave them and could say, "Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good" (Genesis 50:20).
Whether the wrong was intentional or not, we must forgive.
The young murderer mentioned at the beginning could never have paid enough to bring back the father's dead son. Who of us can "pay all"--all we owe to each other, all we owe to God? Only forgiveness can cancel the debts.
Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all so that we can be forgiven and so that we can be enabled to forgive. "Be ye kind...forgivingone another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).
We need each other. We need God.
Are you willing to release your hurts to God? To forgive? To forgive from the heart?
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
"There is none righteous, no, not one" ... [No, not even you, sinner friend.] (Romans 3:10).
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one [place your name here] to his own way ..." (Isaiah 53:6).
BELIEVE A PERSONAL PROMISE!
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever [place your name here] believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
ACCEPT A PERSONAL PARDON!
"If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Romans 10:9).
"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
BECOME A NEW PERSON!
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).
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