Ahead of this weekend’s sermon, something relevant was on my heart. When the Lord does this to me, I know He wants me to share. So, here we are. Before I even begin, I want you to promise yourself that you’ll finish this post, even if it steps all over your toes. It did mine, so it may go all over you, too. Sometimes that’s what we need.
The Bible is a masterpiece of proven history, eschatology, and an intricate love story! Scholars study this book their entire lives and still can’t grasp everything from cover-to-cover. I may read a verse, interpreting it one way, while you may read the same words and think something totally different.
So, when we get to James 1:22, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” what are we to do with that? Well, I’m not the smartest person, but I think with that, we should strive to live the way Jesus lived, even when it’s difficult! Now, I fail at this every day, but there’s one aspect that plagued me for years. The big F word…forgiveness!
When you’ve been cut deep, profoundly so, by another person, forgiveness is the last thing on your mind. At least it was for me! I won’t go into the details because it’s not relevant, but I will be brief. This individual tore my family apart and wrecked our lives for a time. As a result, I bore malicious thoughts toward this person for a long time…years even! I wanted her to hurt the way she hurt us. I thought about ways to expose the truth and get back at her. Revenge. Pain. Despair. I wanted it all for her.
I know, right? My heart hurts thinking about all the wasted time I spent carrying this toxic matter around. I honestly don’t know when the shift occurred, but I know what caused it. Jesus! When I clung to Him with every fiber of my being, I had a hard time thinking negatively about anyone, even someone who hurt me so deeply.
I thought about Jesus and the amount of forgiveness He handed out. I really tried to imagine the pain He endured when the eleven abandoned Him. The very men He poured into, day-after-day for three years. How His heart must have wrenched when He heard Peter deny Him. What went through His mind while He was beaten? What did He feel when in His hour of sorrow, while He was sweating blood, the disciples slept even though He pleaded with them to pray? How soul crushing the crucifixion was, especially when He looked out and only saw one disciple, John, standing there with His mother.
Yet, from the cross, He proclaimed, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Yep, we’ve all heard that verse before and we’ve probably never stopped to weigh the words until we were forced to forgive something terrible. At least, I never took stock of those words until then. He could’ve stopped at “forgive them,” and it would’ve been enough, but He didn’t. He added nine words that are soul piercing, “because they DO NOT know what they are doing.”
Did He give them a free pass? Is He handing out excuses? No and no! He’s stating what we all need to hear! Listen, hurting people hurt people! Most often, when someone does something despicable, they aren’t thinking long term consequences. They aren’t picturing a mother screaming in agony because of their choices. They can’t see the broken heart within their target because they can’t see past their own pain. (And when we hurt people, are we not the same?) They don’t perceive what their pain does to the other person. Are you hearing this? You happened to be the target, but most often, they don’t know any better. If we could only realize that the majority of people are not hate-filled and out to get others, but rather broken people who don’t know any different, we might be better off.
I am NOT saying forgiveness means you need to stay in a bad relationship or put up with abuse or anything of the sort. I am saying free yourself by forgiving others. Let me tell you something, my forgiveness went no further than the ears of Christ! I cried out my forgiveness to Him, more than once if I’m transparent, but it’s something between Him and I. I felt no need to make sure the other person knew it. I had no obligation to go any further and I haven’t seen or spoke to this person in almost seven years.
I chose to forgive not because I agree with what happened or because I feel better about the way we were treated, but out of obedience! We cannot actively claim to follow Christ by loving others, while secretly holding unforgiveness in our hearts–it doesn’t work like that. Jesus calls us to love everyone, not just those we want to, but even more the ones we don’t want to. Remember what He says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:46-48) That’s after He instructed us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
So, it’s not enough to simply forgive them because you also need to pray for them. When I first started, my prayers were barely platitudes. “Lord, bless her.” Now, I cry out on her behalf and pray that her marriage is healthy, her children are thriving, and that her relationship with the Lord is strong! I want the absolute best for her and I’m sure to pray for her anytime the Lord moves me to. This is the most freeing exercise I’ve ever experienced because it’s genuine. I’m not doing this because I must, but it’s something I truly want for her and her family!
In closing, I want to acknowledge that there are some people who do vile things with evil intentions. Rest assured, the Lord never forgets. He is the Ancient of Days for a reason! “Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
Free yourself today! If you need help, let your pride down, and reach out to a trusted friend! You deserve a life free of unforgiveness!
Posted on Mon, May 7, 2018
by Tiffany Gobble