What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:10
One of the toughest things we are required to do if we are to live a life of love.
Has someone hurt you? Have you been wronged? Have you done the best you know to do and it is still not enough? If you are human and walking among other people in this world, then I’m fairly certain I can hear a resounding “yes” to each of those questions.
As Christians, we know we will encounter people who dislike us, who hate us, who will insult us if we are truly living a life for the glory of God. And I personally pray that that’s true of me. We’ll be launching our church soon and if we don’t get doors slammed in our faces, I would be surprised and ashamed. Persecution shouldn’t catch us off guard. Jesus said it would happen.
What about when a fellow Christian treats you wrongly? It happens. It’s hardest when we endure rebuke, rebuffs, and anger from our brothers and sisters or blood relatives (no matter how close you are to them).
Grudges can divide families and friends. Many things can foster resentment in relationships. But love can prevent and heal resentment. Nowhere is truth better expounded than in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
Love covers a multitude of sins. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love holds no grudge and is not resentful. Just look at the differences between the father and the oldest son in this story. The father focused on the relationship, not his youngest son’s foolishness. His brother, on the other hand, kept a grudge.
I recently went home for a weekend, just to recharge my batteries (the pace of city life can drain a person) when a moment piqued where my entire family seemed to be at odds with each other…the whole five against two scenario. Conflict came from not picking up the phone and making that call instead of sending an email or text. Conflict came in digging up past grievances. From harbored anger. From unforgiven contention-sometimes years/decades old.
Sometimes we come with the best of intentions. We vow to accept irritating behavior; to keep the peace no matter what. Them something happens and it dredges up the previous hurt.
When we are confronted with our own shortcomings, we naturally defend ourselves by dredging up past offenses by those accusing us. We’re guilty of keeping a record of wrongs so that we can produce them when needed. We have to feel more virtuous than others so that we can maintain our self-esteem and avoid being put at disadvantage. So we play a game of tit-for-tat, exchanging accusations until we exhaust the goodwill we have for one another. We keep score because it makes us feel superior to the person/people we resent.
It’s time to let go. It’s time to ask God for the grace to forgive.
In The Love Dare, the Kendrick brothers write, “Forgiveness has to happen, or a successful [relationship] won’t.” (p. 121) Good relationships are not ones in which there is never any hurt, never any disappointment, never any betrayal, never any mistakes…but, those that follow 1 Corinthians 13:5 “keep no record of wrongs.”
How important is forgiveness? According to the Kendrick brothers, “When you forgive another person, you’re not turning them loose. You’re just turning them over to God, who can be counted on to deal with them His way…It’s about freedom.” (p. 123) It’s also about peace. Carrying around a burden of unforgiveness is dangerous. It causes distractions and guilt. Misunderstanding. We each much focus on being in the posture of grace, thinking the best of one another….whether we are married or not.
I’m not. But I’ve chosen now to live in a way that not only honors my friends or the possibility of a husband one day, but God.
We pray for God’s forgiveness by praying the Lord’s Prayer, recorded in Matthew 6: Forgive us our debts and we forgive our debtors (or transgressors, those who have sinned against us, etc). That’s a dangerous request.
Think about it.
When I pray that prayer, I’m requesting that God forgive me just as I forgave my best friend for stabbing me in the back. I have to stop and ask myself, Have I truly forgiven her? Or am I harboring this grudge in my heart…this poison?
Jesus settled this when Peter asked Him how far forgiveness should extend in Luke 17. Peter thought that there should be a sin debt limit. But Jesus says Peter’s approach of limited forgiveness falls short – we have been forgiven so much, so we should give exorbitantly.
Personally, I’m glad God doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. If He did, we all would have been wiped from the planet along with the flood…along with the golden calf…along with wandering forty years in the desert…you get the picture.
Forgiveness is worth it and we can attain it by surrendering the arguing, the winning and losing, the rehearsing of a wrongdoing, the scripting of grievances – and let God do what He promises in Romans 12:19: ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. This does not mean that things don’t get addressed that need to be addressed. “It just clears you of having to worry about how to punish them.” (p. 123, The Love Dare) This is not a simple issue. It takes dedication and work on our part to let go and let God.
I had written a while ago on a resolution to forgive. Some may find it hard to forgive if they haven’t forgiven themselves, but know that Scripture doesn’t say that we need to. Jesus has already done that for us and we best remember and focus on that. We must center on the mercy God has shown us. He does not count your past against you. You’ve been forgiven all unrighteousness. So have I. 1 John 1:9-10.
It’s time to love.
Love lets the past die. Love does not seek for justice even though it is in the right. Love wants to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. Love wants a new beginning.
Salvation in Christ results in the healing of painful memories. It is learning to forget what other people did to us and those we love. The power to forget is the power of the Cross. Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Love is the power to forgive, to tear up the scorecard, to be reconciled, to leave the final accounting to the judgment and mercy of God. God settled accounts with us on the Cross. Let us leave our wrongs, our resentments, our grudges at the foot of the Cross of Christ. The love of God in Christ conquers all. The Gospel is God’s answer to the ills of the world.
Who in your life deserves the opportunity to earn your trust back and have you wiped away the record of their wrongdoings that you are keeping? Ask God to show you who those people are, and ask him for his grace to forgive them and work on rebuilding the trust in your relationships. We have been forgiven much by God, pray and ask God to show you how to love by forgiving others as well.
It’s time to let go. It’s time to let God. It’s time to love.
Check out the video of the song “Love Never Fails” by Brandon Heath. The lyrics are taken from 1 Corinthians 13 and it effectively portrays how love should be and is.
Scripture to encourage you in truth today:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ in God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
“Father, forgive for they know not what they do.”
Today’s Challenge: Say “I choose to forgive” and mean it.
Work cited: Kendrick, Stephen and Alex, The Love Dare (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2008)