There are many flaws on my list of things that I consider to be part of my own personal downfalls. In fact, I’m loaded up to the gills with faults, and at times they ooze out of my very pores. Let’s see, there’s impatience, worry, anger, pride, and way too many others to list here! You get the idea. But, one of the very worst for me is that of unforgiveness. I can hold onto hurt like a champion weightlifter holds on to a barbell that’s twice his/her weight.
Picture this: The weightlifter goes to the barbell, they load on a weight, then they load another, and another, and another. They squat down all the way to the floor, and lift the barbell in a single move that is called the “snatch,” or in a two part move known as “clean and jerk.” As the barbell comes up into the air the weights are so heavy that you can see the metal bar bending. The weightlifter grunts and groans and struggles to lift that bar well over their head until they can lock the barbell in place. Can you see the weightlifter struggling to hold the barbell overhead? Can you see the pain in their face? Do they actually look to you like they are having a good time?
When I see this image in my minds eye, I see the heavy weight ready to crush the weightlifter. And, when I truly think about any unforgiveness that I want to harbor, I too can see how the weight of this threatens me both physically and mentally. Does that intellectual knowledge stop me from harboring unforgiveness? Sadly, no. Why do I hang onto anger, resentment, and unforgiveness? Well, perhaps it’s because I think that I have a right to replay an action over and over again, that has hurt me. Perhaps it’s so I can fantasize about revenge and retribution. I want to get even, and I want the person who has wronged me to feel my pain, to understand just what they’ve done. Perhaps I think that it gives me power. And, by the world’s standards, I am justified. “Don’t get mad, get even,” that’s what the world says.
There is indeed power in unforgiveness. But, it’s not power that comes from God, it’s power from the opposite, and the enemy cannot wait to get us into the trap of unforgiveness. We can draw some wisdom from God’s perspective regarding forgiveness:
“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner!” Max Lucado
“Unforgiveness is choosing to stay trapped in a jail cell of bitterness, serving time for someone else’s crime.” Anonymous
“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.” Marianne Williamson
In Matthew 18:21-22 Jesus commands us to forgive others, and says that we are not to forgive seven times (in the OT, the rabbis looked to the book of Amos OT and said you had to forgive three times, the number of times that God forgave Israels enemies), but Jesus said that we are to forgive seventy times seven – or innumerable times. Come on God, innumerable times? Yes, innumerable times is the answer. And that’s a tall order, one that’s impossible for me to achieve on my own. I may not feel like forgiving, but for my own sake, I MUST forgive. I am commanded to forgive. Anytime that I harbor ill will towards someone for a wrong that they’ve committed against me, I must immediately go to God, confess my feelings, pour out my anger and frustrations to Him. I need to ask Him for forgiveness and at the very same time I must choose to forgive the other person. I cannot be in a right relationship with Him when I am not in a right relationship with others. “The Devil must have a foothold before he can have a stronghold” said, Joyce Meyer and she’s right. I don’t want the Devil to have any part of my life. So, seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness is the path I will actively take, and I will not succeed on my own, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray for my success please, I’m going to need all the help I can get.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” C.S. Lewis