Late last night, I enjoyed a 90-minute cyber-chat with a new friend. What started out with "hey / hey" soon became a moving, challenging, and very candid discussion on the touchy subject of forgiveness. I was excited to be able to share some of what God has been teaching me lately, through His word and through the wise counsel of others, and through Rick Warren's "40 Days of Love" study. The 90 minutes whizzed by, fingers flying across our keyboards as we dug deeper.
As I see it, here's the deal with forgiveness: as followers of Jesus, it's not so much an option, really. It's a non-negotiable, a mandate, a must-do... but it's also an invitation. When we are able to truly forgive others who have wronged us (and we have all been wronged, if we are alive on planet Earth), we enable ourselves to enter into peace -- God's peace. After all, when we harbor bitterness and unforgiveness toward another person, it is usually we who suffer, not the unforgiven. Holding onto unforgivess, so the saying goes, is like drinking poison -- and then waiting for the other person to die.
And furthermore, chosing to forgive a person does not let that person off the hook, as we may tend to assume. God is just; wrongdoing will be addressed, one way or another -- but it is HIS to address, not ours. When we forgive, we take the offender off of our "hook" and place them on God's "hook" where they belong. Let Him deal with them; He always does.
Now, this is where is can get tempting; we want to pray, "Git 'em, Lord! Sic 'em! Shatter their teeth upon the rocks!" (to borrow King David's request)... but we have to be prepared for God to have His way, whatever that may be. He may choose to bring about justice and give them a dose of "reality discpline" -- after all, vengeance belongs to the Lord. But... He may also choose to be merciful on them. Not what we want to hear, but it's always a real possibility. And honestly -- how many times has God chosen to be merciful toward us, when what we deserved was unyielding justice?
Anyway. It's a subject that could be discussed for hours, and I would probably enjoy such a discussion. Holding grudges seems to be an innate hangup for human beings; we can all relate. But there comes a time when we wise up and stop drinking the poison -- or, we die of it, one way or another.