Before I begin, I would like to just clarify that becoming a Christian has been the best decision I’ve ever made, or will ever make, in my entire life and I never want to go back to my old life…And this post is mostly me kicking myself in the butt…
But being a Christian is sometimes the worst.
Before I became a Christian, I thought a lot less about my behavior and feelings. Ignorance is bliss, like all clichés, was birthed out of truth. I was happy to hold grudges and feel justified when I was hurt or wronged. I wasn’t all that interested in forgiving people. If you messed up, it was “have a nice life” and I was done with you. I wasn’t heartless, I just liked feeling right. I didn’t care to see the hurt in others when my own ego was bruised. Who isn’t like that?
Then Jesus called me and was like “Hey, I’ll forgive you.” and I was all like “For what?”
…He had a pretty long list…
And so I was so relieved He was willing to forgive me and that there was nothing that He could not forgive me for (unforgivable isn’t even in his vocabulary!)… but then I found out that His forgiveness was conditional.
Get ready for a buzz kill…
Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (emphasis added…obviously)
Knowing that, it makes it really hard when someone wrongs you… because you have passages like “turn the other cheek” and “forgive or you won’t be forgiven” popping into your head. After going through the Bible, you find out that unforgiveness is the root of bitterness, and bitterness will eat you alive and keep your heart hardened so you can’t receive blessings… that’s the hardest part for me… knowing that I’m wrong, even when someone else was wrong first, and knowing that I’m standing in the way of the blessings God has for me.
But what about the big things? The horrendous, gross, malicious actions of others intentionally inflicted upon people for the hell of it? Are those so easily forgivable? How can that make for a just God?
I’m always amazed at stories of people who have gone through horrendous ordeals and can still willingly forgive the people who wronged them. Many people know Joyce Meyer’s background of sexual abuse at the hand of her father as a child. Another woman, Shelley Hundley, had a similar story of abuse as a child, but she was assaulted by a pastor while her parents were serving as missionaries in Colombia. She has an amazing book called A Cry for Justice: Overcome Anger, Reject Bitterness, and Trust in Jesus Who Will Fight For You. In the book, she talks about how every wrong will be made right. We can either say that it was paid for on the cross, or we can trust that Jesus will come back one day with one thing on His mind: Justice.
That sounds super intense… but if you’ve read Isaiah 63… it kind of IS intense… He comes back with His robe all stained with blood, and He’s all like, I didn’t have anything clean to wear… ALL my clothes are this stained because I’ve been too busy kicking ass and taking names to go to the dry cleaner’s. (I’m the worst Biblical paraphraser… go read it yourself!)
So it basically boils down to this: Forgiveness isn’t a feeling, it’s a decision. You can decide that Jesus died on the cross, not just for your sins, but also for the sins of others that have hurt you… or you can decide to hold on to it simply because you want to be “right.” Sometimes making that decision is hard because your feelings are hurt and the person didn’t even apologize! I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve sat on the floor and just cried bitter tears waiting to “get over it” and thinking that there are so many worse things out there happening that it isn’t even a big deal…
That’s why I say being a Christian is sometimes the worst. Because you know what you SHOULD do… but it doesn’t make it any easier. That’s why I love this passage:
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. — Romans 7:18-25
In it’s own little way, this verse is my justification when I’m feeling upset or angry and can’t really find the motivation to let it go just yet… Not that it’s OK, but that it’s not a struggle unique to me. If Paul, who is a million miles ahead of me in his walk with God, struggled to do what he knew he should do, maybe I’m not doing as bad as I feel I am in the moments when my feelings overtake me, and I’m not acting “very Christian.”
Anyway… I think only like 5 people even read anything I write, so I mostly only write things that I need to hear myself, and sometimes try to give you a little pep talk at the end, just in case you’re a lot like me…
So just get over it. And forgive, even if no one has said sorry yet, because it’s for your own benefit…and if that doesn’t help, just remember how much you have to be forgiven for…which is fun to think about…not (Can you tell I have some forgiving to do?).
Or remember that Jesus is coming again, and if you just pass that hurt along to Him, He will make it right, and maybe He’ll let you ride shotgun and you can pound your fist into your hand while saying “someone’s gonna get it…”
(I’m just kidding, you probably won’t be invited because Jesus says vengeance is His… but it’s fun to think about sometimes…)