Do I Have To?
“I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget!” These bitter words were spoken to me by a friend who had been wronged by someone close to her. Though she used the words, “I’ll forgive,” her caustic tone said otherwise.
Forgiveness is never easy, and the closer we are to the person who has wronged us, the harder it is. But the Bible doesn’t leave any room for interpretation—if we want to have a right relationship with God, we have to forgive. Jesus gave us the story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us that if we are offering our gift at the altar and remember a brother or sister has something against us, to leave our gift lie and seek reconciliation. When we recite the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” If we really think about those words, their meaning can be alarming. Do we really want God to forgive us the same way we forgive others?
Forgiveness is something I have had to work at. I have a really good memory, and this is an area where it works against me. I can recall word for word what was said in the heat of an argument
Several years ago, I was verbally attacked by a fellow church member. She had come into our fellowship from another one, and I had done everything I could to make her feel welcome, including involving her and her daughter in the music program (my husband’s and my ministry). When she turned on me, I was hurt and angry and struggled with unforgiveness. I asked God to help me love her, but the resentment held on.
One morning when I was praying, God impressed on my heart that I needed to pray for her, not just asking God to mend our relationship, but in the same way that I pray for my closest friends—addressing specific needs in her life and asking for God’s blessing in those areas.
I have to admit, at first my prayers sounded insincere, even to my own ears. But as I continued to pray for her, a wonderful transformation took place. God began to remove the resentment and replace it with compassion and love.
Like so many commands in the Bible, the command to forgive is for our own benefit. Not only is refusing to forgive a poor testimony to the world, but harboring bitterness can damage us physically, devastate us emotionally and destroy us spiritually. Only when we learn to forgive and truly love our enemies can we begin to become all that God wants us to be.
Carol J. Post writes for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense line and lives in sunshiny Central Florida. Besides writing, she works alongside her music minister husband singing and playing the piano. She also enjoys sailing, hiking, camping—almost anything outdoors. Her two grown daughters and grandkids live too far away for her liking, so she now pours all that nurturing into taking care of a fat and sassy black cat and a highly spoiled dachshund. You can find her at www.caroljpost.com.
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