There’s a story I’ve heard about a man who was bitten by a dog and contracted rabies. Upon receiving his diagnosis, he started to make a list. The doctor assured him that he didn’t need to make a will because his rabies was curable. The man replied “Oh, I’m not making a will. I’m making a list of all the people I want to bite before I get the antidote.”
Can’t we all relate a little bit to this man?
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been experiencing the helpless feeling that comes with being taken advantage of and, like the man in the story, I’ve been making a list. It’s human nature to want to fight back – to hold onto grudges and (at the very least) play out scenarios of revenge in your head.
I was reminded today that I must set my eyes on things above. As a believer, I should always, in every circumstance, be motivated by the love of God and desire to do the will of God. I believe this, yes, but have miserably failed to leave my list at the foot of the cross as the Lord would have me do.
It’s not an easy thing.
Every time I bring these matters to the Lord and point out what someone has done to hurt me, He points to the cross and reminds me what He’s done for me. In Colossians 1:3, Paul reminds us that if any of us have unforgiveness towards one another, we must forgive – Just as Christ has forgiven us.
You and I are commanded – not encouraged, commanded – to NOT keep a list. We are directly disobeying the Lord when we hold a grudge against anyone.
Now let me share my list with you: in the last couple of months my (new-ish) car has been hit twice while parked at work. I’ve been rear-ended and given falsified insurance information, and my family has been scammed by a landscaping company who came in and put in a new lawn at our house.
None of these things are big enough to incite the kind of irritation that has been welling up within me lately, but over time, as another then another unjust thing happened, my focus definitely shifted from eternal to temporal. I started praying bitterly about these things – I knew that it was out of my control to fix any of it, but I desired that the Lord would exact vengeance upon all that had deigned to offend me.
I think of Gladys Staines, Elizabeth Elliot and other incredible testimonies of Christians who chose to forgive their transgressors without a second thought, and I am ashamed of myself.
The list I have been keeping in my heart has hardly been spoken out loud, but it succeeded in drawing my heart away from the Lord. It stole my joy and peace, filled me with bitterness, made me cynical about the human race and ultimately made me question God. These are some of the things we can look forward to when we choose not to extend forgiveness to those who have offended or wronged us.
Jesus Christ taught us that when someone hits you on the cheek, that we should turn an offer him the other one as well. | Luke 6:29
This is the standard set for us by the One who we claim to follow. After being whipped, spat upon, teased and crucified by the ones that He created, He uttered the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
This life is not about us, it’s about Him. It’s about loving the people around us as the Lord loves them. When we make the choice not to forgive others, we defame the name of Jesus Christ and reap the consequences in a broken relationship with the Lord.
As I sit here today, I feel embarrassed that I’m about to publish these words that document all the bitterness that I’ve been harboring over the past few weeks, but I’m thankful for a gracious and loving God who welcomes me back into a right relationship with Him when I come before Him in repentance. If my embarrassment serves to help even one of you reading this to make a decision to forgive, then I’m thankful for the opportunity to share this story.
If any of you are struggling with the sin of unforgiveness today, please consider kneeling before the Lord and asking Him to help you let it go. He will. Choosing to forgive someone who hurt you because of Christ will be counted unto you as righteousness, you’ll reap the benefits here on earth and will be rewarded for it in eternity as well.
The hardest part of forgiveness is making the decision to choose to forget the injustice that has been done to you. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis