I got a reminder this week. I was reminded of just how powerful I am in Christ.
I didn’t see the dead raised, or the blind see, or the lame walk.
Those are mighty works, but they are sirens to announce the real power.
It’s a small word, and not popular. People have a misconception of it’s meaning. We assume it means there are no longer consequences for those actions we’ve committed.
The real power in forgiveness is freedom. Not for the forgiven, but for the forgiver.
I’d forgotten long ago about some of the freedom I’ve received from forgiving in my heart the people over the years who have hurt me, either through ignorance, malice, youthful exuberence or unknowingly. The reminder came in the form of an unexpected contact from an individual I’d not heard from or given any thought to in over 20 years.
My brother was killed in an accident when I was young, and this boy reminded me of him. As a result, I took out my hurt and anger at the loss on him, attacking every time. I was a bully, just like some of the people who attacked me.
The contact was initiated by him, because he didn’t clearly remember who I was until we reconnected. Once he did, he immedtately recoiled away as the memory of the hurt I’d caused hit him like a slap across the face.
I don’t blame him.
I did, however, persue him – not because I felt I wanted his forgiveness for myself, but rather because of the obvious pain the memory caused him, I presume due to unforgiveness towards me.
This is an assumption based from my own experience. I carried a great deal of hurt with me for many years because the people I refused to forgive were, in my opinion, undeserving of forgiveness.
God gets to me sometimes. In my head the conversation will start with Him chatting to me like any friend. Then comes the kicker.
“Do you remember that time when this happened to you and your response was to hold on?”
“What’s your point?”
“Huh?” (I can be pretty dumb sometimes)
“Like, forget about it?”
“No, let go.”
“I can’t heal that part of you while you’re holding on to the unforgiveness towards the person who hurt you. Let go.”
“You mean, forgive then?”
Silence. (God lets me think about my latest dumb question.)
This goes on for a while, then I agree and make the decision to forgive.
That’s right, the decision.
Forgiveness, like true Love, is not an emotion primarily. It is a choice. We choose to forgive. After the passion of the endorphine rush of emotional love we choose true Love to make a relationship last.
We have to choose to forgive, even when we don’t feel like forgiving. The first time we forgive we usually don’t have a rush of warm feelings. The memory still burns in us, and we have to often re-visit the choice and make it again. And again.
Some of the people I disliked most in my youth I now correspond with regularly, and value their input in my life. Others are a work in progress. A few are labelled for review at a later time.
The point is, whenever I have reached the point of forgiveness it has left me feeling stronger and more complete. Closer to God even. Another brick in my defences is removed and replace with strength instead of imperviousness.
After corresponding for some time, there is now communication open between me and my victim – and I do not use the word lightly. My actions towards him were abhorrent to me as I am today. I asked his forgiveness, and apologised for the pain I caused him.
Why am I writing this? It’s not for self-promotion, certainly. Although I can see why some people whould assume it might be. I genuinely don’t care what most people think of me or what assumptions may be drawn regarding my motives.
I was humbled by the reaction to my apology. People have done less to me than I did to this person, and I have rejected their olive-branches. I am not a great man, but I have been forgiven by God through Christ.
His opinion of me and what I should do is what drives me now, sometimes through gritted teeth, to offer forgiveness as I can. Sometimes He asks and I say no. I carry the pain for longer than I need to because I refuse to just let go.
But ultimately, we all need to reach a point of strength where the only opinion that matters is His, and forgiveness comes easily from the heart, not because the offender deserves forgiving, but because the only person who actually gets hurt when we don’t is ourself.
Forgive. Love. It’s powerful, revolutionary and healing.