I always like to be honest and transparent across all contexts – friendships, family, as well as blog posts. I’ve had so much I wanted to write about for a while, but this takes precedence today; it is so timely for our family.
Our church is going through a rough time at the moment. There’s been division, dissension, disunity, quarreling, gossiping, anger, confusion and hurt among many brothers and sisters. Our husband and I got caught up in some of the thick of it by becoming aware of some of what had gone on. We were devastated. It grieves our hearts so much to see people we love and respect so deeply, be either the initiator or the receiver of conflict and pain.
We have our own opinions, of course – and we have had to struggle against our own pride to pray earnestly for God’s wisdom, that He may lead us in the way He wants us to go – whatever that looks like. But, all things aside, I personally have to confess my own sin, not that of others – and it’s a tough one – unforgiveness.
It feels gross just saying it. But, there it is – recently I have caught myself feeling hurt on behalf of others, and becoming angry about it. The events that have gone on are unjust and certainly cause for upset, but not to the point of me holding bitterness and resentment toward other Christians, for we are called to be better than that.
Because, while I may sit here and say truthfully, “but they did this/said that/did this to that person/those people! They are so hurt and devastated! How can I not be mad at them? What they did was wrong!”, it is far better for me to decrease my own voice, and to turn up the volume of Jesus’ voice instead. Because do you know what you really become, when you focus on all those things pertaining to the hurt, and the sin, and why you can’t not be upset and just move on? Do you want to know?
Woooaahh, you might think. I’m not self-exalting – if anything, I’m exalting others, because of my concern for them! No, friend – and I’ve had to spend all day preaching this to myself – your concern isn’t really with them. Your concern is with your own need to be the judge and justifier in all things.
Think about it. A lot of the stuff going on actually has nothing to do with me, and yet I’ve made it my business to be angry on behalf of those who have been hurt. Yes, what has happened is awful – and should and must be dealt with – but it is never permissible for me to put myself in the place of judge over other Christians to the point of sinning against them myself. I have in doing so just become a hypocrite.
Want to know something else? Unforgiveness isn’t just self-exalting. It’s also exceedingly thankless and selfish. Let me show you:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Because God has shown us mercy, we must also show mercy. And let’s look again at what Jesus said at the beginning: Peter asked, “how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?”. And Jesus replied, “Seventy seven times”. And by the way, there’s no asterisk there – no loophole or clause that says, “forgive only if they’ve repented, or taken responsibility for their actions, or admitted they were wrong”. No, we offer forgiveness – with exceeding joy!! – because our own Lord and Saviour offered forgiveness for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), while we were still dead in our own sin (Col. 2:13).
Let us instead be like Philemon, who Paul admonished to refresh him in Christ by forgiving the charge against Onesimus (Philemon verse 20). By obeying Christ at His Word, allowing Him to unbind the bitterness and unforgiveness that reigns in our hearts, we are free to refresh others, and are ourselves refreshed.
I hope this encourages you, friend – wherever you’re at. May God bless you with an abundance of wisdom to see clearly, mercy to forgive freely, and peace to love joyfully.