I've heard of people who have been nearly beaten to death for their faith... who now work with and constantly love on their former abusers. I've heard of people whose loved ones were killed far away, who went and ministered to the killers. I've heard of people who have adopted thieves and cared for betrayers. Who have befriended murderers and served criminals.
I've heard of people who have been so wronged. But what they did in response was so right.
I admire these people. I think to myself, Wow- it must have been so hard for these people to forgive- but surely their faith in Jesus made it possible. I admire these people. But I am so not like them.
There are people like me who, when someone wrongs them, wants to stay angry. Sometimes I feel like a grudge is where I draw my strength from. Not only that, but I feel like I need to convince people to join me in my anger against my wrongdoers. I want everyone to understand the depth of what they've done to me. I want people to be angry at them, because that's what they deserve. I want people to support my cause. Unleash bitterness against the injustice.
I don't even consider forgiving my betrayers, because I feel like there is no reason to. How can I forgive people who haven't repented? Who haven't asked for forgiveness? How can I forget someone who's done me wrong, but thinks they did what was right? How can I forgive, if the consequences of their decisions are NOT over? What if the impacts of what they've done are going to last? What if the pain from their actions will still sting months down the road? Because they will. How can I forgive them, if I am still going to suffer from what they've done?
That's just so backwards to me. If I was not in such a situation, it would seem simple. If I wasn't the one in the middle of it all, I'd think, "Yeah for sure! Forgive others, just as Christ forgave you." But being in it... I realize something. Forgiveness is the hardest thing. And why is it so hard? Because forgiveness may never produce visible results. To forgive someone in our hearts controls our anger and helps us to show love to them... but it doesn't fix things, necessarily. It doesn't change what happened. It doesn't always change their hearts. In fact we may have to continue to forgive them for things they continue to do. It just doesn't feel satisfying.
I don't want to forgive because I feel like they don't deserve it. Why should they get my forgiveness when I technically have every right to hold a grudge? Why do they deserve my love if I will continue to feel the opposite from their side? Why do they deserve my compassion? Why do they deserve my mercy?
Truth is, they don't.
But on the other hand... neither do I.
I never have, and I never will. Never in a million years will I ever deserve forgiveness. Even though what they're doing is hurting me, the sin I've committed nailed Jesus to a cross. The sins I commit over, and over, and over. The sins I still fall into, even though He forgave me. The sins that He knew I would commit, and still forgave me for. The sins that would continue to hurt him, He forgave. Completely. And not only that, but He chose to forget them, too.
I've thought a LOT about forgiving them. But if I'm honest with myself, I don't want to forgive them until I've told others what they did. I don't want to forget what they've done until more people know, understand, and are on my side. I want them to feel what I'm feeling. Then I'll forgive them. Then I'll forget. Then I'll move on. But... how does that make me anymore like Jesus?
He didn't forgive me after I'd paid my eternity in hell for the things I committed. He forgave me before I even had a chance to sin! He knew the sin that would someday litter my life. He saw the horrible things I would think, say, and do. And He forgave me anyways. He forgave me with His own blood. He took away ALL the punishment I deserved. He didn't make me pay my own debt; He paid it for me. With His life.
And because of that... I can forgive others. And I should. I've been purified- bleached whiter than snow, and I know it. And because I know it, I realize that to refuse to forgive others would be to try to cover my pure and righteous self with my old, dirty, sinful body.
If forgiveness is what brought me into a relationship with Christ, then forgiveness should be what brings me into contact with other people. People that need Jesus. People that need love. Grudges don't evangelize. Hatred doesn't save souls. Gossip doesn't solve anything. Revenge hurts both sides.
Jesus doesn't call us to forgive when it's easy. He doesn't tell us to get even, and then forgive when we have our enemies in a headlock, begging for mercy. He's always encouraged us, by example, to go against what's expected. To forgive while it hurts. To forgive despite what they still may be doing. To pray for those who harm us. To love those who hate us. What they've done will continue to hurt me. It's not gonna go away.
But I know there's nothing they can do to me
that my sin has not done to Jesus, already.
And if I have a right to be resentful towards them, then Jesus had that right a zillion times over. If I have the right to experience this anger towards them now, then Jesus had the right to be angry at every person who's ever lived. And I'm one of those people.
If I am such a firm believer in justice, and want my debtors to get what they deserve, why am I not giving Jesus what He deserves: my complete obedience?
Romans 12:2- Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
The behavior and customs of this world would definitely include seeking revenge when someone has done wrong to you. But if I love Jesus, then I am professing to be a new person because God has transformed me. And if I've truly let Him transform me, then He has transformed the way I think. Then, and only then, will I learn to know what God wants from me.
It makes sense, actually. Because if I continue to let contempt fester inside of me as I keep this grudge against my wrongdoers, how will there be any room inside my soul for God's will, which is to love my enemies, pray for my persecutors, and follow Jesus' example?
Ephesians 4:31-32- Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
I'm no longer of this world. Therefore, I no longer hate like this world hates.
I am of Christ. The same Christ that my own sin crucified, and the same Christ who forgave me for it.
Therefore, I forgive.