Forgiveness is not easy.
Yes, I know that’s an understatement. In the life of a Christian, however, it should be easy. I know…I know. I can almost hear you beginning to protest. The Bible talks about it constantly, so there is much to learn about the concept. Also, Jesus came to Earth to show us that God loved us so much that He forgave us and redeemed us.
So, as Christ followers, why is forgiveness the bumpiest part of our path? How do we overcome something that creates so many emotions in us?
I’d like to let you in on something I learned about, during my talk with God on my drive into work this morning. It softened my heart (I actually felt warmth in my chest), and I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Believe me, even as I write, I’m still struggling to let go. I know I want to give God my hurts, and He was pretty insistent at telling me to do so. Yet my stubbornness is holding onto them currently. Talk about fighting the flesh…
John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
When we choose to accept God’s call on our lives, we enter into a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). We begin to walk in the newness of the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:4-6) and we shed the flesh (old desires, habits or anything that separates us from wanting to be obedient to Christ). In doing so, we develop new habits. We begin to see needs in others and we talk with God about how to meet them. Then we physically follow through so that the lost can see who God is, and know that they are loved.
That is the profile of being a Christian. Simply meeting others’ needs and sharing Christ’s love, forgiving and spreading His Word. Nowhere in that description is there room for judgment, anger, bitterness, hatred or resentment. However, as Christians, do we still feel these feelings and deal with roots of these emotions? Absolutely. So, in thinking about forgiveness and my resistance to let go, I needed a perspective shift, and it was this morning that God brought to my mind the concept of enemies.
To those of us who have been wronged (go ahead, you may nod your head), we have held onto a thought, word, conversation, action or anything that justifies our anger and bitterness. We may not even consciously do it. But something triggers that emotion again when we see that person, or hear something that sounds like the comment that put the seed of bitterness into our hearts, and we are reminded all over again of the pain we felt. In that instance, we tend to look at that person who hurt us as an enemy.
Here’s a twist: God looks at the concept of enemies differently. Yes, they are still people who wrong us. Anyone who is not a child of God, who has rejected His teachings, is considered an enemy to God. Does this include people of other faiths, following rules and regulations that are not governed by our Heavenly Father? Yes. The hard reality is that God said Jesus would be the doorway, and He is the only door to God.
Referencing John 1:12 above, the criteria to be a friend (child, family member, son, daughter, etc.) of God is right there. We need to believe Jesus is who He said He was and that He loves us. We also know that because of our belief through faith in Jesus, and grace from God, we are His extended family. The Bible says we are no longer enemies. Anything apart from that means we would have remained an enemy to God. This is a hard truth, I know, but please stay with me.
Paul wrote the following to the church in Colossus regarding our position with God.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Colossians 1:21-23)
Paul is addressing Christians who, after accepting the truth of the gospel, now are no longer enemies of God. They (we) are now reconciled through Christ’s body and are asked to follow through with what God has called us to, until He returns. It’s that simple. This is the transition of enemies to children of God.
But what becomes of those who are Christ’s enemies? The Bible states there are two places we go after we die: a place for those who love Him and a place for those who reject Him. Heaven and Hell. Both are two real places and both are not entered into, until we pass from life to death (or life to life, for a believer).
In this context, I feel a real urgency.
Because this means that if someone is not a friend of God’s, that they will pass from life to death, and never know Him. This is a serious offense, and one that should be taken very seriously. For those who are lost and unbelieving of who Jesus is, their fate is ultimately death.
And the insight God brought to my mind is that we can’t let these people perish. It’s up to us to be the hands and feet of the gospel, so that everyone has the opportunity to accept or reject the truth.
So, what does this have to do with forgiveness?
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells all believers to go against their instincts of hate and rejection. We are told to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Simple enough? No way! That’s easier said than done. If you’re like me, you’re thinking, ‘Why should I be praying for them? They’re jerks!’
Think about it this way. Is God really concerned about the little fights/disagreements/injustices of our daily lives? Yes, He does love us enough to love the intimate details that affect us. But we already know where our inheritance is. I think His goal for sharing this truth with me this morning, was to show me that their unsaved status is a little more important. And that’s something I cannot argue with.
Any enemy of God is an enemy of ours, and we are not to reject them and give them what they deserve. The lost may not be aware of their need for God yet, and we are to be the ones to help them. If we’re rejecting them, we’re encouraging the lost to stay lost. But maybe because of our injustices, we have an opportunity to show them that they are forgiven, which is not a reaction they will expect.
God showed me the bigger picture, which is this: While He is concerned for all believers and hurts for us when we are wronged; His goal isn’t to just make our lives better. He is using our pain to help grow us in His character. We are being asked to step out in faith, and show the person who wronged us the truth of the gospel by praying for them.
Their enemy status is not just against us.
It’s against Him.
Those who are not children of God may hate and reject us forever without any repercussion. But if they hate and reject Jesus forever, their consequences are eternal.
I may be justifiably angry at being hurt or rejected, but the pain is ultimately Jesus’.
It’s not me they’re hurting the most.
Heck, it’s not even about me.
I’m not to seek revenge or stay the victim. In Christ, I AM VICTORIOUS! And not in a prideful way, but victorious in the sense that I have hope of eternal life because of what Jesus did for me.
I can overcome forgiveness issues if I keep the mindset forefront that God is primarily concerned with those who are His enemies. He doesn’t wish anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
In light of eternity, is anything that was ever said/done worth losing someone over?
If it is, you may need to ask God to help soften your heart. We as believers should never have the idea that we’re good to go, and that’s all that matters.
The hurting world around us is waiting to be shown the love and mercy of Christ. Can you look past yourself to see them as an enemy of God, and that they need grace in every sense of the word, just like you did? Let’s shift the perspective from ourselves and put them first. The Holy Spirit will guide us to help those who have hurt us, and instead of festering hate and anger, He will begin to produce love and mercy. It’s a win-win. We get to let go of the pain and someone sees the light of the gospel.
If you are a child of God, you are being called to step out of your comfort zone and love those who hate you. You are being asked to lessen your pain and put Christ’s first. It doesn’t mean your pain is any less worthy to be worked through. It just means that you have the supernatural spiritual ability with Christ’s help to love someone when you feel you are unable to do so. You are able to love and forgive, even in the midst of that pain. Can you do that? If not, I invite you to pray and talk to God about the root of bitterness that needs to be taken from your heart.
I promise you that you will flourish and love with Christ’s love in an amazing way! Why hinder your own growth for someone else to rejoice over? They may not even be aware of the pain they caused you. Please let it go.