(If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, scroll down to read it first.)
My list was done. And it was long. There was no way I could continue to hold someone else’s sins over them when their sins against me were a fraction in number compared to my sins against the God who sacrificed His own Son so I could be forgiven.
But please understand that I’m not saying forgiveness is cheap. Anything that cost the death of an innocent person is scandalously pricey. It’s one thing to forgive someone for forgetting our birthday or not greeting us on a Sunday morning or being angry at us. It’s another thing, though, when their actions result in deep wounds in our hearts that can take years to sort through. Forgiveness doesn’t always result in restoration. An abuse victim, for example, may forgive the abuser’s actions without ever having personal contact with him or her. Sometimes forgiveness is just that…and only that.
For me, though, forgiveness meant having an ongoing relationship with the person who deeply hurt me. Close, almost daily contact. I knew I had to let go. To forgive from the heart and not just in my head. Benny helped me as he walked through his own battles with bitterness and, by God’s grace, we came through. Side by side we prayed; cried; wrestled; prayed some more; begged God for strength; asked forgiveness of our offender for our own sins against them; and then it happened. Love started to grow where hatred once reigned.
This is only possible because of the gospel. Because Jesus Christ refused to hold my sins against me but chose to absorb the wrath I deserved for that list of sins that I sometimes review (and, yes, add to) in my notebook, I have the power to forgive. it’s not easy. In fact, it’s downright hard.
That exercise in forgiveness was one I thought could never be topped. But seven years later an even more weighty circumstance forced me to my knees repeatedly for grace to forgive. It was harder and took longer. It cut deeper and left me reeling. Yet once again the gospel echoed loud and sweet. The Savior helped Benny and me to forgive another offender yet again.
If log removal had not been a regular part of our battle against self-righteous pride for many years I can firmly say that I would be a walking ball of hateful bitterness. But as DC Talk once said, even Christians are “still in need of a Savior.” My Savior has been busy continuing to grow and change me, giving me strength to forgive and keep forgiving.
That same Savior is at work in you.
Is there someone you are struggling to forgive? Are you battling bitterness? Is hopelessness convincing you that there’s no way you can forgive that? Does it seem like forgiving him or her means what was said or done to you is now meaningless? Do you want him or her to pay for what has happened?
I don’t know your situation and certainly don’t mean to in any way minimize it. Perhaps it would be helpful and comforting to you to meet with someone who can help you know the next step in your own freedom from the suffering the sins against you have caused. I just know that for me the light at the end of the dark tunnel of pain and bitterness was getting logs out of my own eye. The fact is, there were some huge specks that needed removal from my offenders eyes. In one case God wanted to use me to help remove them; in the other case I haven’t interacted with the person in years. But, gratefully, God helped me to forgive them both.
Jesus Christ’s perfect life (lived in my place), substitutionary death (died in my place), and glorious resurrection (raised in my place) means that the same power He received to forgive you and me is available for us to forgive others.
No wonder removing logs from our eyes is so important.