This post was inspired by yesterday’s session of the Project 31 Bible Study I am a part of, in which we are working through The Search For Significance, by Robert McGee.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9
There are a few instances in my life when I have really, really, I mean really struggled with forgiveness. Generally, I view myself as someone who has done a lot of wrong in life, and that makes it easy for me to forgive others “as I have been forgiven”…when they are sorry.
What do we do when people have hurt us, let us down, broken our trust, broken our hearts, and are either unaware or not sorry that they did?
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV
How did Christ forgive us?
Well, I’m not a Bible scholar, but I have been sitting under this teaching my entire life, and the simplest way I can put it is, He forgives us because He just does.
– because He loves us (John 3:16)
– because we are sometimes very, very ignorant (Luke 23:24)
– because He is perfect, and therefore not afraid that forgiving someone is going to make Him look foolish, weak, or stupid. (1 John 4:18)
A few years ago, I struggled restlessly with a situation in which my family was hurt by another Christian. I have no reason to believe that person was ever sorry. I have reasons to believe that person did so with intention, not even caring that by hurting my husband and me, our children were hurt as well. I wrestled with wanting to avenge myself, wanting to prove I was right (this could be my tragic flaw if not for the grace of God) to anyone who would listen, and ultimately, wanting this person to be sorry, our relationship to be restored, and lalalalalala. (Yes, I do watch too many Disney movies, thank you very much). When it became clear to me that none of this would happen, I took ‘comfort’ in this scripture:
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19
And while I believe this to be true, that it is God who doles out justice, I am certain it is not meant for us to wish God’s wrath on anyone. And I came to that realization at a Wednesday night Bible study more than a year ago, when our teacher posed this question to us regarding forgiveness and those who wrong us:
Do you want them standing next to you in heaven?
Well, for crying out LOUD. Of course I do. And there is the trump card, right? Forgive. Forgive, forgive, forgive. I took that to heart, I sent one last note of ‘hey, it’s all good’ that went unanswered, and let it go.
Yesterday, our brave teacher shared a testimony with us about a time she was blamed for something she didn’t do. She talked about her inward struggle against “setting the record straight,” because in doing so she would have to “throw someone else under the bus.” She wrestled until she found God’s peace in the situation. And then:
She asked the person who believed that she had done something she didn’t do to forgive her for the thing she hadn’t done.
That is taking it a big step further than where I went. A BIG step. Because even after I made the choice to forgive and even to love, I still wanted the truth to be “out there” and acknowledged.
That person and situation I struggled with and I/we are no longer existing in the same ‘world.’ I know it would be more harmful than helpful to try to drag everything back into light and fix it. I have peace in my soul that I followed this commandment:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18
But, oh, have I learned more after the fact. There will always be ‘wrong’ done to us in this life. There will always be people who hurt us or someone we love and do not apologize. And there will always be God’s word and spirit to guide us through those challenging times.
His Word will tell us, without fail, to love, make peace, and forgive as He taught us to and as He does for us. And His spirit, His grace, His love will fill the holes in our hearts made by life’s letdowns.
If we allow.