The Joy of Forgiveness
Pushing past the chatting ladies in the church, a woman with large brown eyes whispered to me, "Can I talk to you?"
"Yes," I nodded and followed her.
Standing under a mango tree to block the scorching sun, she looked down and mumbled, "My father was a polygamist, and my mom wasn't the favorite wife. Whenever my father brought extra food or clothing home, we never received any."
Wiping the tears with the back of her hand, she continued, "We lived in a hut with a cow to keep warm. I hated my father. Why couldn't he love my mom and me?"
She paused and looked up, "Today I learned about Jesus's forgiveness, and I want to forgive my father."
This conversation happened a few years ago, yet I will never forgot it.
I taught others the importance of forgiveness, but when I faced a challenging situation in my life, I struggled.
Why is forgiveness so hard?
Is it because I know my true motives, while only guess at others? Do I think I am better than others and would never stumble that way?
Or do I believe that the debt against me was too great?
As I magnify the other person's sin and minimize my own, pride grips my heart.
My unforgiving spirit breeds bitterness and spreads like cancer. My hidden grudge paralyzes the relationship and hurts me.
My unforgiving spirit is toxic and falls to realize God's continuous forgiveness to me.
In my sinfulness, Jesus loved me and died for me. He did not require me to clean up my life first, but he accepted and forgave me.
As I focus on my desperate need for a Savior and His undeserved mercy to me, I gain the proper perspective.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32 NIV
Forgiveness brings peace and joy.
Forgiveness doesn't erase the memory of the situation, but it chooses not to dwell on it. I must choose to think on honorable things and put off harmful thoughts (Philippians 4:8).
Forgiveness doesn't remove the consequences or build trust right away, but it releases the person. I will choose not to hold it against the person (I Corinthians 13:5).
Forgiveness accepts the wrong and chooses to not hold a grudge or bring it up.
I must squash bitterness (Hebrews 12:15) and trust that God can use any situation for his glory (Romans 8:28).
Forgiveness is a daily choice of the will.
I must daily choose to do the right thing (Matthew 6:12; 18:30).
Is there someone you need to forgive?
Ask the Lord to help you extend grace just as he did for you.
The African lady's story still challenges me. We all have situations in our lives that can rob our joy, but by God's grace may we extend forgiveness to others.