Forgiven to Forgive
This month we will celebrate the Easter Holiday. While dwelling on the crucifixion, as a mother I cannot begin to imagine what Mary was feeling and how she dealt with the reality of watching her son brutalized, struggling to drag the cross to its destination knowing how Jesus’ life was about to end. He was the sacrificial lamb for all the sins of a present people and for those she would never know yet to be born thousands of years into the future. Then, God, who loved His only son dearly, sent him as slaughter to the cross to wipe away the sins of the world, a world that now, as then, hates the mere mention of Jesus’ name. What were his thoughts, what was he feeling on that dark, lonely day? I cannot even imagine.
When Jesus walked this earth, he had to deal with an angry people — a mob whose anger would yield to hate and eventually lead to his death. I have come to the realization that anger fuels hate which breeds unforgiveness and are a pervasive threat today to the peace so many Christians and non-Christians alike are seeking. It never ceases to amaze me how fast an altar can swell full of people who have labored with an “unforgiving heart,” following a sermon on “unforgiveness” and a call for healing. Moreover, to underscore, unforgiveness is definitely a heart issue, one that I had to confront myself.
As a teenager, I lugged around this wineskin of hate that poisoned my heart. Consequently, I was unhappy and miserable. I hid it under a façade of pride and arrogance trying to appear confident when all the while, I lived in wretched fear, anger and misery. At the end of the day, I retreated to a dark, cold, ugly and lonely place. Ironically, the person I could not forgive and detested the most was unaffected by the anger and hatred I spewed. He thought it rather amusing and challenging.
However, a day arrived when I am asked to forgive, to surrender all that hatred and unforgiveness. “I had just received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Hallelujah! Was I elated? Absolutely. Stunned by what I had just done? Yes. I was trying to digest all that happened and scarred about what came next, because I did not yet understand it all. I just knew I had to receive Jesus.”
I was a military wife and we had just returned to our off-base home, a 12 x 42 trailer. There I sat in stunned silence trying to compress what had happened hours earlier when suddenly, out of nowhere, I heard God asking me to forgive the person I hated the most. At that point, I was not sure what to do with what I had just heard. However, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt God had just spoken and asked me to do the unthinkable – forgive someone who I hated with all my being.
Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me,and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
At that moment, I resisted. The devil, observing my resistance did not hesitate a moment. He immediately hit the “replay” button of my memory bank. Immediately, I saw and relived in my mind all the horrible and terrifying things which were done to me.” As they replayed, I thought to myself, I can’t, I just can’t. The devil wanted me to stay tethered to the people whom I hated continually swallowing the poison of hatred knowing that it would eventually destroy me. His ways always bring a spirit of fear laced in sorrow, pain, and destruction; an addictive demonic force that does not yield easily.
However, the Lord, was not about to give up on me. He gently and lovingly hit the “play” button and presented His slide show. Wow! Scene after scene, a vivid book of my life. The slides were life changing and answered the question I often asked, “where were you Lord?” when I was facing my darkest hours, treading the path of terrifying fear all those years. Each scene was very detailed showing me He was there as my protector, and yet I did not know it. I better understood why certain things happened which allowed a way of escape – because He was there. There were mysterious things that occurred for which I had no answer, until that moment. Then he showed me the angel he allowed me to see one night that I didn’t recognize as one, until revealed in the slides of my life.
Even as I write this, I can feel God’s love wrapping around me like a warm blanket. It was such an amazing experience. I immediately understood that it could have been much graver and ended tragically had He not been there to save me. Unlike Satan’s show, God displayed His love that never abandoned, whose eye was always on me. With the slide show over, I knew the answer: FORGIVE. God had forgiven me of all my sins and poisonous past the moment I accepted Jesus. I was forgiven so that I, too, could one day forgive.
Matthew 6:14-15 (ASV)
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
With the same measure with which I was forgiven, I must forgive those who have injured me, violated me, persecuted me, slandered me, rejected me, etc. I sobbed until I could cry no more and in the puddle of my tears, I mustered, “I will Lord.” However, he did not stop there. He then asked that I forgive my mother. I realized that a full and complete heart cleansing was in order and he was not stopping with her, he was going down the list. So with tears still streaming down my face, I mustered another “I will.” That wineskin hit the floor with a loud thud, spilling its poison. Relief swept over my soul. I was finally free!
The next thing I knew, I was dialing my mother’s telephone number to tell her I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and that I forgave her. She listened and accepted my forgiveness. The man I hated also was told that I forgave him. That day not only was I cleansed, I began to heal from the inside out. And, it was all because of Jesus, who was beaten and reduced to an unrecognizable figure of a man for our sins so that we could experience the greatest of gifts: redemptive love and eternal life with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
So if you, too, have a heart and soul that has been poisoned by the deep well of anger, hatred, and pride, allow Jesus to cleanse your heart, empty it of the bitter waters that are destroying you. Choose Life by asking Jesus to forgive you of all your sins and set you free so that you, too, can experience His salvation power, peace, and love.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, ” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.