Up until my mid-20’s, I perpetuated a very ungodly disdain for my biological father. The gravity of my sin didn’t manifest itself until after he was murdered. In the aftermath, I wrestled with admitting to myself that I exhausted an excessive amount of emotional energy by attempting to keep him in the prison of my resentment. In my estimation, he forfeited the honor of “Dad” because he did nothing to earn it. I felt like in his abandonment of our family, he was partly to blame for us having to struggle so much. But I learned the hard way that even though my feelings of exasperation were valid, life is too short to completely right all my wrongs.
True Forgiveness: Willingly giving up the right to punish someone, even when they deserve it.
The maligned view that extending forgiveness equates to weakness stems from an unhealthy understanding of what forgiveness really is. Forgiveness always costs somebody something, but we see it as weakness when the underlying truth is we simply don’t want to be the one paying. Harboring unforgiveness is no different than drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Medical evidence proves that holding onto resentment can actually destroy your health because those negative emotions release deadly toxins into your body over time. You weren’t built to carry the stress that goes with holding onto a grudge! Furthermore, the very bridge you destroy with unforgiveness is the exact same bridge you’ll one day have to cross.
The Bible has much to say about forgiveness. In Genesis 33:1-4, Esau forgives his younger brother Jacob for stealing his birthright. Esau’s birthright was an inheritance that entitled him to a double portion of their family’s estate. In Hosea 3:1-5, the prophet Hosea forgives his unfaithful wife, Gomer. By doing so, Hosea sought reconciliation at the expense of his own humiliation. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus gives the parable of the unforgiving servant and tells us what to expect when we walk in unforgiveness. In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus shares the parable of the father who forgives his prodigal son. Several other verses speak to forgiveness as well: Matthew: 5:23-24 & 6:14-15; Luke: 6:37 & 17:3-4; II Corinthians 2:7, 10; Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13. The common thread which weaves these verses together originates here: the power of forgiveness is the only power you have over anyone who hurts you. Forgiving sets both sides free from the negative bond that exists because when you forgive, you’re choosing to focus on what you can control, namely yourself.
Are you tied to the past through the umbilical cord of unforgiveness? When you forgive, you sever that cord. A refusal to forgive keeps you tied to a memory that can hurt you for the rest of your life because the root of unforgiveness is pride. It’s that very same pride that refuses to let offenses go unpunished. I can tell you that these principles work, not only because I’ve studied them in the Bible but because I’ve also had to apply them in my own life. Thanks be to God that the frustration I maintained toward my dad is now an afterthought. If I could yell it from the rooftops, I would proudly testify: the power of forgiveness is refreshingly liberating!
Food for Thought
1) Have you given Christ complete control of your life so that you too may walk in the true power of forgiveness?
2) Who came to mind as you read this message? (sidebar: Don’t fight against it. If God is “bothering” you about a specific person or situation, that’s an area He wants to grow YOU in.)
3) How can exhibiting forgiveness become your norm and not your exception?
“Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.” – E.H. Chapin
Written by: Excelsius