Forgiveness is a slippery, elusive thing. The concept sounds so easy but it isn’t. One can believe that they have totally forgiven someone only to later realize that you truly forgave the action taken, yet you have neglected to include the pain and residual fall-out that was inflicted as well. You relax, thinking that everything is taken care of, forgiveness completed, only to find that like a forgotten snarl, it unexpectedly catches in your hairbrush, yanking you back to remembrance and the pain is renewed.
Some folks like to hang on to all the offenses they have encountered in life. They are petted like lap dogs or trotted out out like little show ponies. In this way, they can keep the dastardly offense alive, assuring themselves and others, regularly and often, that they were the tragic victim of some terrible miscarriage of justice. It is their “proof of life” that their pain is a noble thing, a righteous red badge of courage of what has been endured! As such, it is therefore, worthy to hoard as a treasured keepsake.
The sad truth however, is that unforgiveness builds chains just as surely as those that Jacob Marley describes to his old partner Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dicken’s classic Christmas Story. We hang on to these grudges and add others as we go along in life and soon we are so heavily laden that we can scarcely breathe. Our hearts, like the Grinch have shrunken under the weight of all these delicious “truths” proving that we have been wronged, deeply and irreparably. It can easily become the focus of our lives: A strange intrinsic idolatry.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that validates and perpetuates this sort of entitled thinking. Feelings are unpredictably prickly and hearts are very fragile things. Without looking at the downside, we dig pits and build walls in response to anger and hurt, those lost opportunities and painful memories, believing that it will bubble wrap our lives so completely that no one can gain access to hurt us again.
Like the “one more cookie won’t hurt anything lie” : We think that our hardened, sand-bagged hearts won’t hurt anything either. But it does.From our protective bunker, our foxhole of funk, our actions have set into motion a scenario that will rob your life of joy and potentially steal your destiny!
There is a key revelatory lesson about this very thing that Jesus shares in Matthew 6:14-15, and 18:21-35. He states emphatically, that if we don’t forgive others, since God has forgiven us when we totally didn’t deserve it, then he will ( get this!) turn us over to the tormentors! YIKES! Oh my goodness, Sally what does this mean? Matt 6:14-15 is pretty self explanatory. Those people who won’t forgive others, clearly, have really not understood the full work that Jesus has done for them on the cross. With that thought in mind perhaps a full review of the plan of salvation is in order! The parable in Matthew 18 indicates a fuller insight of the results of not extending forgiveness.
Have you seen those commercials for the cold medicine that has a whole family of Big Green Booger Gobs of mucous folks partying in your lungs? I think what Jesus is trying to get across in this pivotal passage is that Unforgiveness is kind of like that. Not forgiving others, who have done you wrong in some way, is actually a spiritual pass key for the demonic to legally enter your life….just like the nasty Green Gobs in the commercial. By refusing to pay forward the forgiveness you received, you have provided the demonic green gobs, free and legal access to your life: they are free to come on over and torment you in a host of ways. Forgiveness cannot hinge on worthiness either. I didn’t deserve to be forgiven when Jesus became my sin sacrifice! So, no matter what awful thing has been done to me or what ever heinous crime has been committed upon my person, I in turn need to make sure that I keep that whole forgiveness thing up to date. It is deeply important!
Knowing it is important and being successful in it’s commission are two entirely different things, aren’t they? This is one of those times when the Holy Spirit can help. Ask him to bring to your remembrance anything that you may be harboring in your cranial nooks and crannies. Ask him to give you strength and grace to forgive others. Sometimes it is ourselves we need to forgive and that often is harder for us than extending forgiveness to another! Jesus paid for it already, just do it!
Sometimes forgiveness is a daily, repetitive process. Visually, just gift-wrap whatever is causing that ache in your heart and give it to Jesus, lay it at His feet. Still having trouble? Pray for that person who offended you! It is really tough to drag that grudge when you are sincerely praying for that person. (The Holy Spirit can help you with this, too.) We like to think ourselves deeply spiritual and mature, making the act of forgiveness seem as simple as dropping off the dry cleaning at the drive through window. However, depending on the life-blow that you have taken, it may not be so simple. Especially if this hurt has become your boon companion over the years since. Do it anyway.
There are several things that you will see in those passages that forgiveness is definitely not! Forgiveness does not mean trust is restored. Forgiveness does not have to mean reconciliation. Forgiveness does not mean you condone whatever action or deficit occurred. Forgiveness does not have to be reciprocated. Forgiveness is freedom from bondage. Pay it forward!
Forgive. Break that chain, shed that burden. Sometimes we need to be honest and say that it is God that we are angry with! We believe it is He that has committed the offense and given us a defective child, an empty checkbook, the perfidious spouse, a diseased body, wretched parents or left us vulnerable in some awful childhood circumstance. Satan loves to tell us those lies. It’s OK. Feelings are real but they are not always rational or reasonable. The Lord is big enough to take it. Gift-wrap your anger and give it back: Offer him forgiveness. He will return it ten-fold with His Peace. He wants to heal your wounds, and mend your broken wings. Jesus has been in the healing business a long time. He, better than anyone, knows what it is like to be abandoned, hated, wrongly accused, beaten and abused. Let it go.
These chains are keeping you tethered in a place you do not want to stay. Unforgiveness is keeping you from taking flight in the Spirit. Clutching your hurts and anger are keeping you from understanding who Jesus is and what he is capable of in your life and the lives of others. These are serious and important times we live in. As things start to heat up we must be sure we react in love to those around us not racking up points of offense in our little mental book. It’s a waste of time. It will eat you alive and, to Satan’s delight, will keep you so busy thinking of yourself that you will never achieve the destiny that the Lord has waiting for you. Let it go!
And who can resist a Disney song with the same Theme ?