Why is forgiveness so difficult?
Sure, it is an “easy task” to expect from others, but it is not so easy to dole out. We often think that what we did wasn’t “that bad” and that the other person ought to forgive us. But when the tables are turned, and we have been wronged, our perspective often turns with it. We suddenly are the bleeding victims not willing to let the healing process begin while holding onto bitterness and past wounds.
It is sad, isn’t it?
I recognize this in myself and it is shameful. I think we can all relate at one time or another. We are human and so therefore we automatically desire self-preservation over Christ-likeness. We desire justice and retribution rather than mercy and grace.
But do we really? Do we really want justice and retribution? I don’t think so.
I think when the tables are yet again turned and we have to face the reality of our ugly sin nature and how hideous we are in light of God’s perfect law….we will fall to our faces pleading for mercy and grace. We can’t stand up under a perfect God and expect Him to forgive us for our faults if we are not ready and willing to forgive others of theirs.
This principle has been on my heart lately because of situations that have arisen in my life. People frustrate me and so I sometimes feel it easier to talk badly about them and not give them grace than to pray for them and forgive. The condition of my heart is often sickening. Praise God for His redemptive powers and His patience with me. I am in dire need of HIS forgiveness.
This principle has also been on my heart because of a situation in my life that has been reoccurring for over many many years. It has festered, it has grown, and it has frankly gotten out of control. Parties are unwilling to forgive and they are truly unwilling to put the past aside. They do not understand how to let go of control and move on in God’s grace. If they truly understood the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ they too would understand the importance of forgiving our offenders and letting mercy reign dominant in our lives.
I often wonder how sexual abuse victims forgive their offenders and sometimes even restore relationships with them; or how kids who grew up in alcoholic homes end up loving their parents despite the mess they had to deal with growing up. If Christ, who is perfect, is ready and willing to open His arms to the most wretched of all sinners (think Hitler) if they just take the first step, then who are we to make stipulations on which person we will or will not forgive?
That type of arrogance is not only appalling, but disgusting.
I know, I know. I don’t know the situation. I don’t know how evil or wicked that person has been. I don’t know how untrustworthy they have been or how they have embezzled from you. I just don’t get it. You’re right. Maybe I don’t. But I know someone who does. Jesus Christ. He became flesh dwelt among us, was betrayed by his disciple Judas, was denied by his own disciple Peter, and was beaten and flogged for doing what? Oh, that’s right…for being perfect…for being the “King of the Jews.” He was charged with nothing and yet He paid the ultimate price. And here He is asking us to do something, to be obedient to His commands, to forgive and our response is bitterness and disregard. We are in essence turning our back on Him too.
He hasn’t asked us to carry a cross on our back to Gethsemane nor die a bloody heinous death on a cross. No, he is simply asking us to lay down our unforgiving heart at the foot of the cross and love that person in His power and strength.
It isn’t easy. Following Christ has never promised great popularity or comfort. But I’ll tell you what, it will be far better for us to be obedient now then to die in bitterness. We will then have to give an account of why we decided to disobey Him in the small things.
Don’t you want to please Him? Don’t you want to lay down your rights so He can be glorified and that your spirit can be restored to wholeness? He only asks us to obey Him for our good. He does it so that we can be healed and He can be glorified.
I’ll leave you with the clearest parable on forgiveness there is. This lesson was taught in Matthew 18 by none other than the greatest teacher, Jesus Christ:
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
23“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of goldh was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
29“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”