But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15
I meet far too many people today who harbor bitter resentments and anger because of something someone said to them, did to them, or failed to do for them. Some of these grudges go back as far as 20 years! The common thread that I observe that weaves through the lives of the people I am speaking about is incredible stress, pain and suffering…some exudes to the surface, some is buried deep within their soul. There is a feeling by many that they have to get even, or that at the very least they must return the slight, bad act or abuse with equal or greater fervor to somehow regain their dignity and their wounded pride. The result? The aggressor has long forgotten the act, and the victim relives it over and over magnifying their own pain.
The Bible makes it very clear, and Jesus Christ himself admonished the disciples that we are to love and forgive. We are to pray for and love even our enemies! This was incredibly difficult for the people of Jesus’ time who were searching for a messiah who would be a great warrior like King David and fight for them against the Roman slave masters. Love the Romans? What a bitter pill to swallow…and still tough to accept today.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ Matthew 18: 21-22
Why should we give those who wrong us another chance, or better yet 77 chances? Because our sins against God pale in comparison to the daily squabbles and insults we endure, and yet the Father forgives us! How can we not forgive others when He has shown grace and mercy beyond what we deserve solely because he loves us! And that is the key: love overcomes hate, love overcomes jealousy, love overcomes anger and bitterness, and love heals.
I understand fully that reaching out in love when someone hates you, turning the other cheek, is not logical in the world we live in, however this is not our home. We are to be other-worldly and focused on the life to come, where love will reign supreme. We are to be examples of Christ’s love on this Earth and witnesses to his redemptive grace through his death on the cross.
In the end we remain creatures of flesh, and so we will feel pain, anger, and be tempted to exact revenge on those who wrong us. When that happens, reach into your soul and find the peace and love of Christ. It will bring calm to your storm, and praise God it will confound your enemies!
Still not convinced? Here are some clear and convincing words by Jesus on the subject:
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. Matthew 5:43-44
Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:35
When you finish reading this, why not pick up the phone, or send an email, and end a feud, patch up a disagreement, send love to someone who has not shown love to you, offer forgiveness even when forgiveness is hard to offer. I am willing to believe that the very act of being obedient to God in this painful area of your life will bring incredible peace and unexpected rewards!
God bless you!!!