Earlier this evening, I read a blog by B2Y entitled Release From The Prison Of Rage And/Or Pity. As I read his blog, I was reminded of a time nearly 25 years ago when God taught me a lesson in forgiveness. I have written about this incident before but I believe it is an important topic to discuss once again.
When I was a girl, a criminal act was committed against me. Indeed, this individual did not just commit this sin against me but against others as well. In fact, the person actually served prison time when the authorities were made aware of the fact that this person was committing such crimes and the person was brought to trial and found guilty. This was a number of years later and by this time, I was in another state. I just heard about what happened from someone else who did not know that I too had been wronged and I said nothing. It did not matter. I had moved on and there was no point in bringing it up.
A few years later, after being released, this person turned their life over to God and when I moved back home I discovered they were actually attending the same church as me. Now, I realized that God certainly can change our hearts and we can become a new creature in Christ. I even resolved in my heart that I would forgive this person... as soon as they asked me for it.
One night the Holy Spirit cornered me, you might say, ... in the bathtub, LOL! If you have never suddenly had the feeling that God is standing next to you and you have nowhere to bolt, just wait. You will!
When asked about forgiving this individual, I was all set with a smug reply. "Oh, I will forgive them... as soon as they ask!" I shifted uneasily as I realized I had given the wrong response. What more did God want from me? I couldn't exactly make the person ask me for forgiveness now, could I? No, I couldn't but this wasn't about them. It was about me. What?
Gently God reminded me of how it had been on the day I got saved. Oh yes, I was only seven but I remembered that day very well. I knelt down and asked Jesus to forgive me and He did. So when this person asked me to forgive them, I would. I smiled. That was that!
No it wasn't. The Holy Spirit prompted me to think about that once again. It seemed that my memory was a bit off. With a gasp I suddenly realized that was not the way it happened at all. While I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. Forgiveness had been extended toward me all of my life. On that day so long ago, I was simply acknowledging my need for forgiveness and embracing God's forgiveness. I needed to forgive in the same manner.
You see, most of us have this forgiveness business backwards. Our forgiveness is conditional. If they ask for it, we will give it. That is not what God does. His forgiveness is extended toward us. Will we receive it unto ourselves?
I knew what I needed to do. Although this individual had not sought my forgiveness, I knew I had to forgive. Not for their sake but for mine. When David was confronted by the prophet Nathan in regards to committing adultery with Bathsheba, David wrote Psalm 51. Verse four reads:
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.Ultimately every sin we commit is against God and every sin committed against us is ultimately committed against God. We have no right to decide who we will forgive and we have no right to set down any conditions under which forgiveness is granted. That is God's business, not ours.
When I realized all of this, I wailed to God, "But I can't!" You know, God didn't say I could. He knew full well that I was incapable of doing this but Christ who dwells within me could. Would I let Him help me?
I started to cry. I didn't know if I could but I knew that I had to do so. Slowly I nodded and slowly I said, "Help me to forgive... "
That was all it took. God caught me by the hand you might say and led me the rest of the way. Oh, what joy filled my heart for God had truly enabled me to forgive!
As I write this, the person who wronged me is battling cancer. As I think back to this incident which happened nearly 25 years ago, I marvel at the things God has done in their life and the lives of people they have touched. I marvel at how God saved me from a prison of bitterness and anger and instead taught me a beautiful lesson in forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not an option. We must forgive!