The first time I had contact with this foreign word (forgiveness) was about 20 years ago. We were brand new christians and our daughter Amber’s bus had rolled down the mountainside and Amber was helicoptered to the nearest hospital with head wounds.
Amber, miraculously was alive and was able to walk out of the hospital that same night. Six months earlier a bus of girl scouts rolled down the same hill and many of them did not make it. I was stunned at the kindness and compassion the people in the church had toward the driver of the bus. We had found out that the driver had been at a party the night before and had taken drugs, and also had that on his record, but because of some kind of fluke the current bus company did not get the record.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I was pretty angry with this stupid guy. But I saw many prayers go up to not only forgive the man, but to go and visit him and see if he was ok. They also forgave the bus company and there were no lawsuits. I was deeply impacted by this group of people that so loved God that they were willing to forgive someone who obviously had some real problems. I tried to follow their lead, but it wasn’t until 4 years later that someone confronted me with my anger.
We had moved back to the midwest from Agoura Hills California and were attending a small evangelical church in Omaha Nebraska. I had been a christian for a few years but had thankfully escaped having to deal with this forgiveness issue, because no one had ever explained it to me. Amazing, huh? Here I was 42 years old and really had no idea how to do it. I mean I ‘d heard about it, but that’s saved for people who intended to hurt you wasn’t it?
Growing up on a farm, you just learned to “shake it off” when someone made you mad. And really, growing up with 3 sisters, the worst it ever got was when I saw my sister wearing my new sweater in school without asking. Don’t get me wrong, I was steaming mad at her:), but we had the peace talks (mom laid down the law) at home and got it straightened out.
Even asking Jesus into my heart during a service at church one day, they must have left that part out, because I don’t remember it. So imagine my dismay when my new friend Linda Reid, called by some the Human Probe, (she will not let you go by her without her asking you very scary personal questions…and you find yourself answering them!), was listening to me complain about my latest dilemma that made me mad. I went on and on about a meeting at our new church, where some man stood up and put my husband down because he didn’t think he had the qualifications to be an executive pastor. Ha! He was so right. Mike had only been reading the bible for a year or so, and since the company he worked for had sold, he was trying to help out at the church. Our new pastor adored Mike with his corporate experience and the new wealth we had acquired didn’t hurt either; but the way this other man had talked about my husband in front of all the members was hurtful and embarassing.
Well, I thought, who does he think he is? As I walked out of the meeting my new friend Kristi was in the back and I immediately purged all of my anger out about this man, knowing that she and I were friends and I could tell her anything. I went on for quite a while feeling quite justified and later stopped by my friend Linda’s house to report on the “jerk” at our church. I guess I wasn’t done getting all the junk out yet. What is it about us that needs to have someone confirm our bad behavior? Is it so we feel justified? Linda listened in her patient way and smiled sympathetically until I was done regurgitating the list of how evil this man was. She softly asked “Do you think you could forgive this man?”
Wow, she must not have been listening because this man was vile! “No, I don’t have to forgive him because he didn’t mean to hurt me or Mike, he was just stating what he thought was right!” She smiled and listened again to my many reasons of why I didn’t have to forgive him and asked again…And she wanted me to say it out loud! She’s really getting irritating now. This time she explained that no matter how small the hurt, even when someone doesn’t mean to hurt you but it goes in deep anyway, we need to forgive.
The way you can tell if you’ve forgiven is to think about that person and what kind of feelings come up. If you can do that without getting angry, you have let go and given it up to the Lord. If you still want to choke them, back to Jesus to talk some more.
Eventually, I ground out a sorry statement like “Lord, I forgive this jerk for what he said about my husband and for the hurt he caused”. Linda smiled and told me I did a great job and left it at that. But God had some more work to do in the car on the way home. Something happened once I said the words out loud. I really did forgive this man and knew that in a way he was right. Mike wasn’t qualified for the job. I even felt I had to go back to my friend Kristi and ask her forgiveness for spewing all my anger on her about this man. She was a little embarrassed by my confession, probably thinking I had over done it a little, but I pressed on, knowing it was what God was telling me to do.
I learned something very valuable that night. To not let things sit inside of me for a long time, and to be quick to forgive. and slow to anger. I think I was beginning to get the meaning of that scripture.
Matthew 18:20-22 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Yikes! That means that if I’m just not “feelin” it, I have to keep saying it? Or, if that person does it again I have to forgive them again? Well, there it is in black and white. All I know is that I want to feel clean inside all the time. Carrying anger around does not get me there. Forgiving does.
Matthew 18: 34-35: In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
And now it’s not only say the words but do it from your heart.
Colossians 3 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Yes, I guess that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? The Lord forgave me. When I think about all the stupid stuff I did, and I’m forgiven by Him, how can I do any less for anyone else.
Hope you’re all clean and shiny from all the forgiving you’ve been doing this week. Or maybe you need to do what one pastor told us to do. Get a yellow notepad and begin to write down all the people He brought to mind we needed to forgive. Write down every word and offense and then go down and forgive each one and then throw it in the trash because it’s done! No more to be remembered.
Please join us this week as we pray for the marketplace at Frank Consulting at noon.
p.s. Please remember to keep in prayer our sister and brother Diane and Michael Brodeur and their son Christopher and the rest of the family. I saw them today and their son has to date undergone 40 hours of surgery and horrific skin and muscle grafts for his leg. They are not sure that any of the nerve endings are responding in his foot, which will need to happen to allow him to use his foot. He will be in the hospital for 3 more weeks for sure and they still have not set all the broken bones in his leg. Oh Lord, hold this family tight and help them to remember that You are the healer. Hold them through this time to trust in You, even when they can’t understand Your ways.