Several years ago, our pastor did a sermon series called, “The Real ‘F’ Word.” This word was “forgiveness,” a word and an idea that I struggle with. I’m sure those reading my post have probably never struggled with forgiving someone who has wronged you…
Being a Christ-follower, I am instructed to forgive others. Jesus tells us in Matthew that we are turn the other cheek rather than take an eye for an eye. We are to even love our enemies. What a strange theology to hold in this day of stepping on whoever and burning what ever bridge you have to, to get what you want. He (Jesus) says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” - Matthew 5:38-42. (NIV)
Jesus goes onto say, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” - Matthew 5:43-48. (NIV)
So first we are to turn the other cheek to those who offend us, and then we are to love them as well? This seems like an impossibility. How do we forgive the friend we trusted that stabbed us in the back? How do we forgive the parent that made our childhood a nightmare? How do we forgive a boss who belittles and is unappreciative? How do we forgive a spouse that cheats? I’m not saying that I have experienced all or any of these things, but maybe you have. So where is the hope? My answer is, Jesus Christ. I have seen supernatural behavior (that is behavior that had to be ordained by God) from people that have been absurdly treated. They have been able to speak of their offenders with love and compassion, and not fall victim to the evil one’s (Satan’s) plan for destruction. They have learned from these incidents and have grown as a result of them. Instead of being viewed as martyrs, I see them as teachers. It gives me hope that Christ enables me to take on the mantle of forgiveness and not be tethered to unforgiveness when dealing with issues where I have been wronged. Unforgiveness will eat your lunch. It causes you to harbor resentment, anger, bitterness and sadness, just to name a few. How can this be beneficial for the soul? Soon you distance yourself from your friends, your family and even God.
I want to encourage you, if you are reading this, to give forgiveness a chance. Our time here on earth is far too precious to be wasted away thinking of revenge, retaliation and retribution. I’m not saying that Christ calls us to be doormats. He does however teach us to forgive others, to seek our counsel wisely and to MOVE. Moving may look like this: being a bit more careful about who your chose as as your closest confidant. Maybe it’s having a healthy open conversation with a parent. Maybe it’s taking a leap of faith and sharing with your employer how they make you feel, even if you might get fired. Maybe it’s seeking a Christian counselor for you and your spouse. Maybe doing just one of these things will bring you closer to forgiveness. I don’t know all the answers, but I do know that Christ calls us to live a live worth living for Him and that includes forgiving one another as we have been forgiven by our Heavenly and Eternal Father. It is a bitter pill to swallow at times. My journey through forgiveness has just begun. But, I will continue to strive to be more like Christ who took on MY sins and the sins of the world, forgiving me and you, and building the bridge we need to reach our Father in Heaven. Rid yourself of the chains and the bondage of unforgiveness. Forgive your neighbor, or maybe even yourself, as Christ has forgiven us.