Most people who have been following the Lord for a reasonable amount of time recognize the importance practicing forgiveness and mercy. They grasp the concept that in light of both the holiness and mercy of God, holding onto grudges or desiring vengeance is neither Christ-like or healthy. They understand that harboring bitterness towards anyone is not evidence of spiritual regeneration. We know all of this. Yet I’ve spoken with people who confided that although they believe they’d forgiven, still find themselves upset about a situation to the point that it affects their lives. It’s entirely possible to make an intellectual decision to forgive, and to no longer wish for “karma” to fall on someone we are angry with, yet fail to cast the hurt brought on by the offense.
Forgiveness is not always a one and done, quick release formula. The Lord gives us an image of a continuous approach. (Mat 18:21-22) The God who created us calls us to love people in response to His kindness, with reconciliation and humility. I can attest that at times I truly believed I had forgiven someone, only to find that the bitterness from a particular past situation was still on my heart. I found this hurt manifesting itself in other areas of my life. This greatly impeded my walk, emotional and spiritual well-being, and attitude towards life. When the Lord opened my eyes through His word it brought a new sense of liberation that changed the way I approach EVERYTHING.
We must remember that forgiveness is NOT pretending it never happened. It is acknowledging real hurt before Holy God, and finding comfort His goodness. Knowing that He hates whatever wrong has been done to us, and that it has been paid for, along with every sin we have committed, based solely on the blood of Christ. Our immediate concern shouldn’t be gaining peace, but being obedient to God and bringing Him glory. We will come out the other side of the experience with Godly peace, but the process may be a refining process requiring sacrifice and submission.
We might need to repent for assuming we are entitled to convenience in life, and instead embrace longsuffering and denial. We should reach out and make peace with whomever we feel has wronged us. (Mark 11:25) This may involve some uncomfortable conversations, which the Holy Spirit can adequately handle. We should lift the other party up in prayer and recognize that the Lord went to the cross for them with the same passion He has for us.
When we are actively involved in praying for someone, it is tremendously difficult to harbor anger towards them. We also identify areas in our own lives where we have fallen short in living a life of sacrifice. If we feel insulted, we need to remember God sees us as redeemed. If we feel we’ve been robbed, we need to remember God provides all our needs and ask for a generous spirit. If we feel betrayed, we should proclaim that God will never leave us, and ask for a spirit of commitment to others. This is yet another process of being conformed to the image of Christ.
And in it all, we must give glory to God.
Daniel Demars lives in central Massachusetts. He is in the food distribution business and in his spare time enjoys driving for Uber where he says he is “cruising for cash and making friends along the way.”