Have you ever had a hard time forgiving someone?
I have. In fact, one night not too long ago, I was offended by something a good friend had done – more accurately, something a good friend had not done. It was frustrating, because the issue was so trivial that I did not even have the guts to explain how hurt I was to my friend. I knew that the reaction would be surprise or laughter. Looking back on it now, I feel so ridiculous. I know you would find it silly, too, because I confessed it to a good friend and she laughed her socks off.
That night, it didn’t seem so funny. I lay in my bed, thinking, wondering, even plotting ways to readjust our friendship so that – let’s call it what it is – I could “punish” this friend of mine for the offense.
However, I knew God was not going to take this attitude from me. I could sense within myself that He was not pleased. Had I not sensed it, I would have known it because His Word commands me to forgive. There was no way I was going to get away with holding this issue against my friend. It was exasperating, because on one hand, it felt justified. I felt like I deserved to be offended. But on the other hand, I knew the price Jesus paid for my own sin. I knew that I needed the Lord on my side and I did not want to jeopardize my relationship with Him over such a small thing.
Finally, out of desperation, I shut my eyes tight and prayed from the depths of my heart: “God, please help me. I know You don’t want me to feel this way. But I’m really upset…” I was tired of wrestling in my own strength. I think I also really wanted to get some sleep.
Every time I come to a point where I have to choose between forgiving and holding a grudge, I learn something new. From previous experiences, I had learned that forgiveness is a choice. It’s a command. It comes with a blessing. It has a cost. Like love, it’s not about a feeling. It’s not about broadcasting the issue – it’s definitely not about saying “…she did ABCD…but I forgave her from my heart…” on national television. It’s not about saying “I forgive so-and-so” but feeling a tightness in the tummy each time so-and-so is mentioned or (dare I say it?) we hear about so-and-so’s victories.
And it’s hard.
Here I was again, and I realized as I poured out my heart before God that no matter how trivial something may be, if it so bothers me that I am beginning to hold it against a person, then that something is a big deal to me, and the issue – including my attitude towards it – is a big deal to God. I had to accept that I had been hurt, and that even if I was too embarrassed to let this person know how I felt, even if I was sure it was PMS and childishness, it mattered to me then, and the unforgiveness, like all sin, had to be mortified before it was allowed to grow.
I also learned that for me to be so childish even when I know better, I must be weak. And God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. His grace is sufficient. Nothing can ever be enough for a person who thinks God’s grace is not sufficient.
As I asked myself why it was such a big deal to me, something else struck me about forgiving: only a loving person is truly capable of forgiving, and an unloving person will hold a grudge for the slightest mistake. This issue bothered me so much because I wanted things to go my way, and they didn’t. Refusing to forgive always means I am saying the world revolves around me, and everything must line up the way I want it to, when I want it to, because I want it to. How abominable… how proud! Because unforgiveness is so selfish, it makes Everests out of molehills, and can even exist where there is only a perceived offense. Sometimes the enemy tricks people into thinking that they have been offended when no real offense has actually been committed. Unforgiveness then revolves around an assumption or even paranoia. It cannot have been by my own strength that I slowly began to realize that I am in my friend’s life – and in everyone else’s life – not to be served, but to serve. Because “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” I am here to love and show love. It is not and can never be about me.
Is it not interesting that sometimes, when Jesus healed, He said “Your sins have been forgiven,” or “Sin no more”? Is it not even more interesting that God commands us to forgive others their minutial sins against us because He forgave us our infinite sins against Him?
What I was holding against this person as a debt owed to me was absolutely nothing compared to what I myself have owed the Lord. If my friend had sinned even more grievously – even unmentionably grievously – against me, it would still be nothing compared to what the Lord has forgiven me. I had no right to hold a grudge. It’s healing to utter the words “I forgive you.” It’s indescribable when God comes and lifts that burden. The things of earth truly do grow strangely dim when we turn our eyes upon Jesus. I look back now and chuckle to imagine that I allowed that to offend me. But I know that without the Lord’s help, this trivial matter would have been a buried seed destined to germinate into a root of bitterness and cause trouble.
Such a ramble, eh? Well… the Son truly sets free. He who forgives has provided the grace for us to do the same. I do not by any means claim to have mastered this most difficult of virtues. I pray that because we have been forgiven our debts, we will never call any man our debtor in this manner.
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verb (used with object)
1.to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
2.to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
3.to grant pardon to (a person).
4.to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one’s enemies.
5.to cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interest owed on a loan.