I recently concluded a long battle to clear my name. I can finally say that it is over. However, in reflecting on the matter, I realized that while it may be done on paper, it will never be over for me until I forgive the one who put me through it. Forgiveness is not automatic. It doesn’t come easily. There is lots of resistance to the thought of it. Don’t I have the right to be angry? Shouldn’t they pay? There is some twisted idea that if I withhold forgiveness it will hurt them. However, I have been down enough of these roads to have learned that unforgiveness is like debris in a wound. It will fester and never heal until it is removed. It will derail my walk with God; rob me of joy, peace and strength; and prevent me from progressing into success in any area of my life. Yeah – that will show them!! Often when we go through these types of trials we describe them as the “night” and we are praying for morning. But there will never be the dawn of a new day as long as I choose to maintain the darkness with the cloak of unforgiveness.
So what does it mean to forgive? Jesus taught us to forgive seventy-seven times (Matt 18:22). He taught us to pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt 6:12). He illustrated it in a parable about the man who was forgiven much debt (Matt 18:23-35). Clearly the subject was important to Him. What did it look like when Jesus forgave me? He suffered because of what I did and then He offered forgiveness, redemption and love, should I choose to accept it. And when I did, He didn’t let me in with a grunt and treat me like a second class citizen. He ran to me, took me in His arms and rejoiced! (Luke 15:20-24). I have been forgiven much – and He holds none of it against me.
As an ambassador of Christ (2 Cor 5:20), I am His representative. I may be the only “Christ” that this person will ever see. Doesn’t my heart long for them to receive Christ’s forgiveness and redemption? Shouldn’t it begin with the offering my own forgiveness? My attitude and posture also need to reflect my heart. The ability to interact with this person in a loving manner will be a powerful witness. Unless Christ had made the road to redemption welcoming and easy, none of us would have come. And unless I make the road to Christ through me welcoming and easy, they will not come either.
Forgiveness is a choice. I choose to be free – to shed the burden of unforgiveness and to welcome the joy (Ps 30:5) and new measure of God’s compassion (Lam 3:22-23) that comes with the morning. What will you choose?