[Part 3 of 4: Forgiveness Series]
“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” –Author Unknown
Sadly, our society is in an epidemic of disease. Everywhere you turn, someone is battling cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or something similar, either personally or in their family. The Bible says, “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15). I’m not a medical doctor and don’t want to presume to diagnose anyone, but I see a concerning parallel between the uprising of bitterness and unforgiveness in our society with that of disease.
Forgiveness is a pardon. In other words, it releases the other person from continuing to hurt you. It doesn’t mean what they did to you was okay–it simply means you are refusing to drink the poison.
When a disciple asked the Lord to teach them to pray, Jesus responded with a “model” prayer:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4).
Many of us have this prayer memorized, but do we sincerely believe what we are praying? Jesus never instructed His disciples to memorize and quote this mindlessly. Instead, He gave us a model or a template on how to pray, and what things to include in our prayers.
Notice forgiveness is sandwiched right in the middle.
Once again, Jesus addressed the topic. It’s in every instruction He ever gave us. Forgiveness isn’t an option… It is a direct order from our Commander & Chief, who knows us, loves us, and wants the very best for us. And I’ll add that it takes more strength to forgive than to not. In other words, you are not weak because you forgive–no, you are exhibiting great strength when you release another’s debt.
Listen to the wisdom of those who have forgiven:
- “A personal offense is like a scratch on a phonograph record. I couldn’t move my thoughts beyond my pain. It kept repeating, as if I were stuck within its grooves. There was only one way to play beyond it. I had to forgive them, so my heart could take its form again.” -Laurel Lee
- “A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.” -Samuel Johnson
- “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Gandhi
No matter what background a person has, wisdom comes to those who have chosen the path of forgiveness. And as Christians, we have supernatural help. It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Jesus never asked us to do something He wasn’t willing to assist with. So we forgive, first by faith, as an act of our will in obedience to His instruction (see earlier posts from this series). And as we do so, we refuse the poison offered by our enemy to embitter our soul and wreak havoc in our lives.
The bottom line is, when you forgive, you win. Jesus came to destroy all the works of the enemy, and teaching us to forgive is one way He accomplished this. So don’t let your enemy win–don’t drink the poison.