You were the best of friends with a certain lady, until she betrayed your confidence. You found yourself so badly hurt by her actions, you ceased all communication with her. A week ago, however, you heard a preacher give a brilliant talk on forgiveness that inspired you to forgive her. But now you've just walked into a party where you see her sitting at a table, her back to you, and you feel the hurt and the bitterness rise in your chest like bile. This is what you do:
- You promptly turn and make for the exit.
- You join the party, taking the table farthest away from her and make it a point never to look in her direction.
- You smile at her coldly if you happen to catch her eye, and then ignore her for the rest of the evening.
- You go up to her, shake her hand and tell her it’s nice to see her again; then make it a point to say bye to her as you leave.
Of all the situations that we will list in this series, this is probably the one that most of us will find the hardest to face. It is very hard to forgive people, and I have noticed even preachers and pastors who lecture on pulpits on the subject, carry bitterness and resentment in their hearts towards those who have caused them injury, either real or imagined. There are a few basic truths, however, that will help you forgive those who have hurt you if you realize them. I share them with you here.
- "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15) Understand this truth. No number of visits to the confessional is going to bring you absolution unless you have forgiven those who have hurt you from your heart first.
- God has forgiven you for far worse things than anybody has ever done to you. It does not matter that you might not have killed or raped anybody. Multiply the number of "little" sins you commit each day by the number of days in a year and multipy that by your age and you will see the phenomenal debt you have accumulated over your lifetime!
- You also hurt people constantly. But you expect those you hurt to forgive you, and more than that, expect them to keep no record of the harm you have done them either. Is it too much to expect you to do the same? "Do to others as you would have them do to you," says Jesus. (Luke 6:31)
- Many people are spiritually challenged. Just as you would be sympathetic towards somebody mentally or physically challenged, you should be sympathetic to those who aren't spiritually mature. They just don't know better. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
- Forgiveness brings healing. The wounds caused by people won't even begin to heal unless you bring yourself to forgive them their sins. Wounds left untended by unforgiveness will then fester and infect not only your soul, but your body as well.
- The enemy doesn't want you to forgive anybody because he thrives on the hatred and anger and bitterness that unforgiveness brings. If you want to live like a true Christian and end the reign of the evil one, don't give him an inch of square space to walk on.
In the options listed above, (a) might seem extreme but I've seen people actually walk out of a party when they have spotted someone they disliked. Options (b) and (c) are exercised more commonly, and the result is usually an evening of pain rather than enjoyment. Option (d) is exercised most rarely, not only because it requires extreme courage to walk up to someone, even if it is only to say hello, but also because it leaves you open to the very real danger of being snubbed that few want to risk. But if you do choose this option, you can rest content that you did the best thing in God's eyes and that he will bless you for it.