And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
The mass murders of the last few days at Las Vegas, New York, and Sutherland Springs, Texas have stunned us all. What shall family and friends do with their lingering hurt? There will be empty beds and empty places at dining tables. No doubt, the hardest of all will be the absence of the babies and children. The burials will help with closure but not completely. Eventually intense grief may convert into a quest for revenge. It doesn’t have to, but it could.
The killers in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs lacked the courtesy of hanging around to be executed. But, how many times do you have to execute someone to satisfy their robbing you of your loved ones? If you could kill them twelve times, would that satisfy revenge? I have read the testimony of people who attended the executions of the murderers of family members. Few testify that witnessing the execution satisfied the emptiness and rage of their hearts.
We may forget that God also hurts when our loved ones are murdered. Our verse today was given to the Christians at Ephesus. They needed instructions on how to handle their hurt feelings when they had been violated. God’s solution was to forgive “one another.” We could respond by saying, “But, Lord, you don’t understand what they did to me!” Oh, but He does understand. God forgives us of our sins toward Him for Christ’s sake. He went to the cross to pay for our sins, even the worst of our sins.
For some, it may come as a surprise that God’s command to us to forgive is not necessarily to make us into super saints. Rather, it’s for our own benefit that we unload the grudge and bitterness that we may hold against someone, even for the great sin of murder.
Grudges and bitterness are some of the greatest destroyers of human happiness and physical health. Anger and bitterness have long been known to be a major factor in causing heart attacks and cancer. Anger and bitterness are the worst acid to the soul and it has a physical counterpart in its toll upon our health.
Jesus warned that if we will not forgive, neither would our Heavenly Father forgive us. He told us in the model prayer, that forgiving others is part of our praying. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:15)
This may be the most expensive thing in the Bible. We would hope that such a forgiveness could be a two-way street and that reconciliation could take place. But, grudges and bitterness can linger long after the offending person is dead, and reconciliation cannot take place. But, forgiveness can take place, even toward a dead person.
If God would not forgive us until reconciliation took place, then God’s forgiveness would be tied to how someone acted toward us. That’s a no-no. That’s not the way God’s forgiveness works. He doesn’t get somebody else’s permission for Him to forgive us. But, if we will let it go, if we will forgive as He commanded us to do, then He will forgive us regardless of how the other person responds to us.
The hurt, the pain from some sins against us may be so great that it is impossible for us to forgive with one uttered sentence: “I forgive you.” It may not be that simple. I went through that several years ago. I was convicted to forgive a man who had wronged me. So, one morning in my private devotion I said, “Lord, I forgive the man who has wronged me (I called his name). But quickly, I had to tell the Lord: “Father I’ve said the words, but you know I didn”t mean a word of it.”
The next morning, the same thing. This went on every morning for almost a month. One day, during that month, the Lord impressed me hard to pray that God would bless the man and his family. Again, I prayed and had to say that I didn’t really mean it. But I kept praying, day after day. One day, I noticed that it was easy to pray for God to bless the man and his family. It was then that I realized I had truly forgiven him.
This was an old wound, and I never thought about it. But one day it was God’s time for me to dig it up and deal with it. I never saw the man because he was then in a rest home with Alzheimer’s and some said he didn’t even know his own wife. This is one reason I know that forgiveness and reconciliation may not be tied together. It should be, but may not be. The last part of this story is to say this: forgiving someone may be so hard that it cannot be an instant happening, but rather, a process. I had to forgive that man every day for over a month. Forgiving him was a process. Do you need to forgive someone?
Across America, there are many women whose fathers raped them when they were little girls. If this is you, I recommend that you talk with the Lord about it and start forgiving that person. There are many men who were raped by a family member or friend of the family when they were little boys. There are other brutal, crippling scars that people are carrying that was inflicted on them when they were children. Does someone reading this need to talk to the Lord and begin forgiving that person who wounded you? Ω
Read Through the Bible in a Year
NOVEMBER 8, 2017 - WEDNESDAY
A.M. Jeremiah 49-50 P.M. Hebrews 5
(Bible Gateway will read this to you if you like. Look for the speaker icon.)
Good Verse to Memorize:
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)
Song for Today:
There Is a Fountain (4:29) (Gaither Group)
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