What would it take for you to find yourself standing opposite someone with your hands placed firmly around their neck, as you squeeze with all the strength within you?
I play a lot of ‘what would you do if…’ games and I think there’s a general consensus that spitting at someone is somewhat of a cardinal sin. Personally, I can’t imagine anything much worse than that. I think it’s because by the time you’ve realised that another human’s saliva has made contact with your skin, the immediate disgust is overpowered by the acknowledgement of the extent of the disrespect handed to you and in seconds your shock turns into full blown rage.
So what would you say if we weren’t talking hypothetical situations? Your friend is relaying their day and they utter “he spat at me so I strangled him”. After I got past the shock that someone who is freely walking around planet Earth has actually rationalised spitting as an acceptable way to get a point across, my immediate reaction would be: Fair. Someone spat at you and then you attempted to strangle them to death…in my book, that is fair play. Of course, however, my immediate reaction does not fall into line with what the Good Book says we should do. We sometimes forget that making sure people reap what they sow is God’s duty because we’re just so used to: ‘commit the crime, do the time’
( I say used to but I’m fully aware that some of us still have Free [insert name of convict] in our twitter bios who we know, all too well, was guilty, but hey, we’ll go with the majority of us).
The point is, finding a befitting punishment isn’t actually down to us. Who has been to Sunday school and remembers what God tells us to do in these situations?
Yup folks, that’s right….Forgive them.
She pushed all my buttons…forgive her.
He broke my heart…forgive him.
They neglected me…forgive them.
There won’t ever be a different instruction uttered out of the mouth of God when we air the grievances that people have lumbered us with. No sin is too big for forgiveness…
For all of you who are reading thinking “yeah…I get it…this ain’t nothing new about forgiving”,you might just be surprised. Since I actually started taking God seriously, (around the age of 11), one of the first things I came to terms with was the necessity of forgiving others. It wasn’t until last week that I realised I was doing it wrong. That’s TEN years of sort of, not really, ‘forgiving’ I’d been engaging in. So keep reading, maybe you can learn something new too…
I should probably start with letting you know that I’m an extremist. This means that I can easily switch from being completely obsessed with you one week and feeling like you’re dead to me another. I know that sounds harsh, it’s not that I wish death upon anyone, (before you start crafting your hate mail) I just have the tendency of going from all to nothing in a matter of moments. Like a rollercoaster but with real emotions. This meant that forgiveness for me has always come in three steps; Firstly, telling God, “I forgive them, and I let them go” and waiting for God to jump in and take away the feelings of resentment I had towards that person. Then, after I’d been healed and was no longer holding the grudge, I made sure that I put as much distance between myself and that person as possible so that they could never hurt me again. You know how the saying goes ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me’? I saw no logical explanation for staying around in order to be fooled for a second time. Hence, for me, the last step in the forgiveness process was being able to pray for the person. Being able to pray showed that I really did hold no resentment – I could even ask God to BLESS them! After the prayers I didn’t think I needed to pay that person a second thought. Or so I thought.
Oh so royally wrong
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has grievance against someone. Forgive as The Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
This week I realised where I had been diverging from the path God wants us to take. Sure I was forgiving people, but I definitely wasn’t forgiving as God forgives me.
Let me take you back to Calvary for a second. God took all your sins with him upon the cross, forgave you of all the ones you were going to make in advance and welcomed you into His kingdom. For me forgiveness meant shutting the door in the face of everyone that had hurt me to avoid a deja vu but that is not the example that Jesus set before us. After forgiving us he opens the door, and doesn’t just allow us to hang out in the doorway and be distant friends, he puts a door stop in the door and invites us to be close to him. When Peter asked how many times should he forgive someone, Jesus answered SEVENTY-SEVEN times (in one day). That is pretty huge in comparison to my, ‘no second chances, I can forgive you, but I no longer want to be your friend’ rule.
Last week I had to lay at the altar (quite literally) the people that I thought I’d forgiven in my heart but hadn’t really. So much pain was released in that moment and I left church feeling like a weight had been lifted. This week I was deeply hurt by friends and while I was planning how I was going to shut them out of my life, I realised that once again, I wasn’t emulating Christ. Forgiving people isn’t just being able to pray for someone from a distance, it’s being able to continue to outstretch your arms, knowing full well they could rip out your heart with the next embrace.God doesn’t shut us out when we make mistakes, so why do we think that we get to? You may look at the pain people have caused you and conclude that they aren’t worthy of your friendship, but neither are we worthy of the Lord’s.
I hope this is resonating in some small way. Forgiveness is a command, it isn’t gentle advice. Read Matthew 18:21-35 if you don’t believe me.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15.
Jesus said it, not me, for everyone who feels that’s a raw deal. It’s so important that we learn to forgive the people who hurt us. Looking back on all the people you’ve forgiven, can you say with confidence that you’ve actually forgiven them, or are you just numb to the pain and you’ve cut all strings with them? This isn’t advice to stay in abusive relationships or surround yourself with people that hate you, just merely encouragement to not act out of unforgiveness.
Next time someone hurts you; let the pain go in your heart, pray for God’s will to be fulfilled in their lives, and I dare you to not shut them out.
Love you all