Oh what a huge, thorny all-encompassing subject! Do I really want to open up this can of worms? Unfortunately, yes, because it’s something I need to hear. You are just along for the ride. I’m talking mainly to myself so I won’t be offended if you choose to push the stop button and get out here. It’s only my personal reflections after all but if voicing this will bring any ounce of relief or understanding or compassion to another hurting soul then that’s all good too.
I used to think I was quite a nice caring person. Boy, was I wrong. I’m vile really, the lowest of the low. That’s not being a martyr or exaggerating and that’s not to say that I’m not in good company either. A while back, I’m not sure why, I made a mental list of everyone I could think of who had hurt me or damaged my life in some way. Some of these events went back many years and I thought I was over them. But I was still holding a grudge. Many, many grudges in fact all simmering away under the surface.
I felt that the Holy Spirit was shining a spotlight on those areas of my life that still had not been dealt with. It was an uncomfortable and painful experience but it was necessary if I was to grow any more as a Christian. I was shocked by the level of animosity I felt towards some people particularly as it goes against the Bible’s teaching on this matter. This is what it says in Matthew 18:21, 22.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
Jesus wasn’t being flippant here or saying you must forgive someone 490 times. Rather he was saying your forgiveness must be ongoing, you must not cap it at a maximum number.
Before you begin to think that I couldn’t possibly understand what you’re going through or I would not be advocating this approach let me tell you some background. What I am facing is not a Holocaust, it’s not someone who has unspeakably hurt one of my children, it’s not someone who has robbed all my possessions or taken my womanhood forcefully. But it’s a big thing to me. Please understand that I’m talking to myself. I would not presume to tell you how you should live. That is between your conscience and God, if you believe in Him or even if you don’t.
I am grieved, beyond grieved. In fact I cannot put into words how I feel at this moment. My husband’s job has finished acrimoniously. People that we thought were friends or even acquaintances ignore us now. It is as if we do not exist. The worst thing for me, is that we have to come across these people in our daily lives. They think we are something we are not.
My life has done a full 360 turn since this time last year. All of the things we took for granted have been stripped away. We have no idea how long this will go on for. At the moment we take it one day at a time. I have been through the whole gamut of emotions, from disbelief, to anger, to wanting retribution, to gradual acceptance to numbness. I keep coming back to the whole forgiveness issue.
What do I do when I hate these people? When I don’t want to forgive them? When I sometimes want to see them suffer? When everything in their lives still looks rosy and ours is upside down? This is where the true measure of my Christian faith comes in, when I am found wanting. When I am pressed down and the dross is refined away. There is not a day or moment I don’t think about it. The hard thing is while we await a just outcome life still goes on in the interim. Kids still have to go to school. I still have to do the laundry and tidy the house. The food shopping doesn’t do itself.
In some ways I feel justified in my anger and my grudges because my children have suffered indirectly. I could cope with people having the wrong idea about myself and my husband but not when they dare bring my kids into it. I’m like a prowling Mother Lion in their defense.
You see I know the trite answers, the pat ones, the ones I’m supposed to give but they don’t seem to work for very long. Jesus says in the Lords Prayer when He teaches us to pray that we are to say “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt6:12). If I cannot get over these feelings I will not be forgiven myself. On the cross Jesus said “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do”. If I can truly say that I love God and want to please him then I must forgive others who hurt me because He says so. Unforgiveness, when it is nurtured for a long time gives way to bitterness and hardness of heart. It makes me a prisoner. I am the one who wears the shackles, not the one who has wronged me. They can blithely go through life not even knowing or caring how I feel.
I must forgive because He forgave me first. However he does not leave us to deal with this on our own. He knows we need his strength. The book of Romans in the Bible has this thought-provoking verse which says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Notice this verse is assuming life will be a struggle so it says “If” it is possible. Sometimes it wont be. Some people just seem sent to try us. They delight in it. The best thing to do with these people is to get away from them. When the world talks about forgiveness it speaks of forgiving and forgetting. The Bible doesn’t necessarily highlight the forgetting part but it does say “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. If there is someone who habitually offends you you either need to cover it over in love because you accept them flaws and all, if that doesn’t work you need to speak to them about it or you need to show some wisdom in how much time you spend together.
I feel a little better after offloading! As my feelings of hatred keep occurring I’ve obviously not forgiven these people. Worst of all I don’t want to. I feel I have a right to hold on to this anger but the Bible tells me that’s not true. I am no different from them. I am a sinner who is saved by grace. I simply pray at the moment that I will get there in time with regards to forgiving them and letting the matter go.
In conclusion then as I’ve not answered my question (bad habit of mine) it is my belief that Christians must forgive because it is commanded by God and because He first forgave us. This does not imply in any way that it is easy but it is necessary if we are not to live a life of spiritual bondage. I cannot begin to contemplate how hard it will be for some though who have been deeply wronged.
I neglected to say that the reason this was fresher in my mind was because we bumped into some of the people involved in our situation unexpectedly today in one of our favourite places. Does take the gilt off the gingerbread sometimes when you have to start worrying every place you go.
Also I’ve neglected my daily Bible reading for a while but not by design. I don’t feel as well equipped to cope with life when that happens.
Till next time.
Image from wallpaperswala.com