“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
An acquaintance of mine always seemed to bristle with anger at someone. “Would you believe that Ellie deliberately took my seat in the choir?” she asked me. When I looked at the choir and saw Alicia’s face set sternly in concrete I knew something must have happened.
We all have times when we feel someone has offended us. Since we’re only human, it usually hurts, and sometimes it makes us angry. But after the initial affront, how we deal with it can make all the difference in the world.
Unfortunately Alicia dealt with affronts in a way that was guaranteed to make and keep her miserable. Several weeks after Ellie had inadvertently committed her offense, she said, “You know, something has been troubling me lately. For the past several weeks Alicia seems to be deliberately snubbing me. In fact, I’ll start to smile and say ‘hello’ to her, and she’ll actually turn her head and look the other way.” Ellie paused and then her eyes brightened. “I guess I’d better go to Alicia and talk it out!”
This dear lady is a wise and understanding Christian. And she at least helped Alicia get over one grudge that was making her miserable! Robert Louis Stevenson said, “If the injured one could read your heart, you may be sure he would understand and pardon.”
True love, peace and joy come from the Spirit of God. Bitterness, hostility, and wrath grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). Because forgiving people who hurt us often seems difficult, we don’t see many radiant Christian in our churches. This in turn hinders the effectiveness of our church’s ministry to the people and community. It hinders church boards, groups, and youth programs. It even results in church splits. And it definitely hurts our families.
What would happen if we Christian obeyed our Lord in the matter of forgiving people? Wouldn’t it be wonderful? Just think of the joy we would have, to experience the burden of anger, bitterness, and hostility lifted! Then people would really see Jesus in us.
Let’s look at some things the Lord and His Word say about forgiveness and love. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45a).
In our natural selves, loving our enemies is impossible. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). As sinners, we were God’s enemies, yet He loved us. So when His Spirit lives in us, He can give us the power to forgive our enemies, pray for them, and even love them. That’s part of His amazing grace.
Blessing those who curse us, doing good to those who hate us, and praying for them also help us to forgive and love them. If you can think of someone who has hurt you, try this.
I once worked with a young woman who made cutting remarks to me, and I tried the above process on her. Do you know what happened? We became friends; and when I left, she threw a wonderful going-away party for me!
Questions: Is there someone in your life who is making your life miserable? What step could you take that would be God honoring in this situation?