Sunday, December 29, 2013
My New Year's resolution: Choosing to give the gift of forgiveness
Forgiveness...the very word evokes pain doesn't it? If you've been hurt or wronged by someone, the wound is probably still very fresh in your mind. It's natural for us to want to retaliate when we've been wronged...that's the fleshly side of us wanting justice, but that is totally the opposite of how God sees it. When we want to hold onto that bitterness and unforgiveness, we inadvertently feed it as it slowly grows inside us. God wants to totally eradicate that pain so we can live in freedom.
Some people choose to replay the wrong done to them over and over in their minds...like instant replay on a movie screen. Each time the wrong is brought to the forefront of their mind, emotions swell and the hurt seems to grow larger and larger- festering like an infected wound. The hurt may have taken place many days, months, or years ago but as it is replayed, it can seem as fresh and new as if it were yesterday.
Lewis B. Smedes wrote in his book, Forgive and Forget, "When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself." When we choose unforgiveness, we imprison ourselves in the past. We allow the wrong that was done to us to constantly weigh us down and hold us captive. If we choose forgiveness, by an act of our will, we allow God to release us from our man-made prison.
If we are obedient to Christ, we will choose forgiveness. In the Bible, we are given clear instruction in Colossians 3:13: "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." You may wonder how we can forgive when we don't feel like it? We forgive by choosing to forgive as a heart choice- an act of faith on our parts out of obedience to Christ. It's not in our nature to forgive on our own, so we have to allow God to forgive through us...to empower us to choose to forgive. We can't just forgive in our heads by saying "I forgive you," we have to be willing to forgive from the heart. A forgiveness that says "I choose to forgive you even if you never know that I've forgiven you...even if you never ask for my forgiveness...even if you never admit that what you did to me was wrong."
Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. Many hurts will never be forgotten even though they are forgiven...but, God can erase the pain from the hurt if you will let Him heal your heart. He can set you free from anger, bitterness, and resentment. We are the ones who suffer the most when we choose not to forgive the one who wronged us. Forgiveness isn't going to just happen overnight. Often times, it takes time and is a very slow process especially if you've been hurt over and over again. Forgiveness is not a one time thing! The Bible tells us that forgiveness is a continual action, did you know that? In Matthew 18:21-22, the Bible tells us that Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother when he sinned against him. Peter wanted to know if up to seven times was enough but Jesus said "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven." In essence, He was saying, forgive as many times as you are hurt. It's not easy to forgive but if we allow ourselves to see the person through God's eyes, how can we not forgive? When we remember that God forgave us for all of our sins, how can we hold unforgiveness in our hearts? Matthew 6:14-16 tells us "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." And in Mark 11:25, "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
In order to truly be set free, we must choose to forgive. Don't allow roots of bitterness and unforgiveness to strangle your joy and happiness. Don't let the weeds of resentment grow in your heart! Unforgiveness is like a Cancer that eats away at us, slowly devouring our heart. Choose forgiveness and wrap that gift up in the love and grace of Christ. It won't be easy, but you can do it! I am choosing to give the gift of forgiveness in this new year. I'm choosing to release myself from the pain of the past. I'm going to begin this new year fresh and free....how about you? Will you CHOOSE forgiveness? It's your choice after all, choose wisely.