I have struggled for a long time with the concept of forgiveness. It seems to be one of the greatest human challenges. The bible tells us to forgive, and this has only added to my frustration and confusion. “What exactly is God asking me to do?” I have always asked myself. It is difficult to forgive when you feel like you have been stripped, wounded and left feeling like a victim on the Jericho road, (Luke 10 v 30). Forgiveness is not easy, just when you think you’ve mastered it in one part of your life, or in one relationship, some new offense touches a deeply treasured piece of you, and the hurt and anger flare again. Life has a way of dragging us into the most painful and unthinkable places, where we cannot change the past and our future seems to depend on a concept we do not understand, FORGIVENESS . I have never really thought of forgiveness as something to aspire to, I have always thought of it as a white flag of defeat.
Forgiveness is a gift to yourself; it is about releasing yourself from the control of someone who hurt you. It does not exonerate the perpetrator but it liberates the victim. Oftentimes we feel as if forgiving someone means that we are allowing them to get away with what they have done.
Exodus 21 v 24 “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” I used to think this is a fair scripture. Then came Jesus in Matthew 5 v 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If we practice an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world will be blind and toothless.”
We cannot always understand other people’s motive for hurting us, since we cannot see what is in their hearts. Luke 6 v 27 -28, Jesus instruct us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who spitefully use us. This is hard, not just for me but for a lot of children of God. We tend to believe that forgiving people who have hurt us is hard, but the reality is that walking around with anger and unforgiveness in our hearts is even harder. One of the most dangerous effects of harbouring unforgiveness in our hearts is that it short-circuits the power of God in our lives, making you and I unable to walk and function in the Spirit.
We’ve all heard about forgiving and forgetting. It is true that we must forgive, but I am not sure if forgetting is possible. But if we sincerely forgive, the pain of the offense will not persist, after a while the memory of it will loose its sting.
Forgiveness is the matter of the heart. It is an act of surrendering to God’s will and it is between you and God. When we honored the words of our Savior Jesus Christ to pray for those who hurt us, asking good for them, seeking the Lord’s presence in their lives and transformation of their hearts. Asking God to reveal His love and grace to them. Then we will personally experience God’s miraculous, transforming grace more profoundly than we ever thought possible.
Believe me when I say, you cannot pray for people and still be mad at them, as you pray for them, you develop compassion towards them and God begins to reveal areas of struggle in their lives. Hurting people hurt others, much as healed people heal others. What we do or say to others is a direct reflection of how we feel inside. Sometimes we need to take a step back and remind ourselves that other people’s actions and reactions are not about us, they are about them. For hurting people, the act of hurting others gives them instant gratification. It is not like they are evil, just hurting. The truth is that you cannot fix yourself by breaking someone else.
When we pray for them as an act of obedience to God, He will begin to shine His light on us, to remind us that we are not perfect and we have been forgiven. If we want the beauty of God to be seen in our lives, we must refuse to keep unforgiveness in our hearts, because it will take the shine out of our lives.
I don’t know what hurt or pain has kept you in prison of unforgiveness. Maybe your wounds are so fresh and still bleeding and the mention of the word ‘forgiveness’ feels like rubbing salt into the wound, but remember that it is believed that salt heals wounds faster. When people offend us, we should allow the love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts to come out towards them. God is love, and He is a forgiver. Love forgives. Love cures people, both the one who give it and the one who receives it. When we choose to forgive, we stop the past from robbing our future.