Forgiveness. This is a TOUGH topic. And if I’m completely honest, it’s not a skill I’ve mastered. How do you forgive someone who hurt you? And, taking it a step further, how do you LOVE someone who has hurt you?
I had a co-worker/employer who was in my life several years ago and, to put it plainly, he was just mean. He was manipulative and didn’t seem to care that his words made even the strongest people doubt themselves. At the end of the day, all he cared about was his bottom line and it hurt me deeply. While I’ve come a long way from the days of wishing him less-than-good fortune in his life (come on, you’ve had those thoughts at some point, too…), I would still run and hide if I ever saw him walking around in my town, and I definitely can’t look you in the eyes and tell you I’ve forgiven him, because I haven’t.
How can I talk practical application about forgiveness if I haven’t forgiven the most hard-to-forgive person in my life?
The cool thing about Jesus is that He doesn’t tell us to do anything that He hasn’t demonstrated Himself. So when He says, “Forgive those who persecute you,” He’s already done that. And to such a crazy degree that it makes my situation seem petty.
Jesus hung out with a group of his closest friends, which we now call the Disciples. I imagine that if they lived in 2017, they would probably do all the things we do with our friends: Go to the movies, eat out at restaurants like Chipotle and Applebee’s, go on hikes, binge-watch Netflix, etc., etc., etc. They weren’t just hang-out-at-work friends, they were hang-out-every-day friends.
One of those friends was a man named Judas. And yeah, you know where I’m going with this. Judas, one of Jesus’ best friends, sold him out to a bunch of people who hated him. For money! Those people beat Jesus, hung Him on a cross, and let Him die, and Judas sat and watched it happen while enjoying a little extra jingle in his pocket.
To me, the most insane part of this story is that Jesus sacrificed Himself on that cross for you, for me, and for Judas. JUDAS… the dude that let Jesus be carried off in the first place. That means that not only did He forgive Judas, He then proceeded to give him the greatest gift anyone has ever been given: the potential of eternity with Him.
When I think about that story, I can be tempted to trivialize my own hardships. If Jesus can forgive to that degree, surely I can do it, right? But I don’t think that’s the point. Jesus forgave Judas’ (and all of us) because He’s Lord… but we’re not. As humans, it’s impossible to truly forgive someone without handing it over to God and asking Him to change our hearts. If I really want to forgive this past employer of mine, I have to first make the choice to do it, and then come before God with a softened heart and ask Him to give me the strength to forgive. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight (clearly.. ex: me), but with God, all things (including forgiveness) are possible.
Who do you need to start the process of forgiveness with?