… for they shall inherit their lives back.
Sometimes people can be mean. They can be jerks. Sometimes we probably deserve it. Other times it might come as a complete blind side and have nothing to do with us. But at some point in life, especially if you are living a Jesus-following life [or trying to], someone is going to hurt you, a lot, and you need to figure out how best you can and should respond.
Jack Handey may have put it like this, “Before you take revenge on someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way you’ll be a mile away, and you’ll have their shoes.” [big paraphrase from his ‘criticize’ version]
Stephan Pastis, through his amazing comic strip, Pearls before Swine, captures it this way:
Which is Truth number one, which I have also heard put this way – ‘Holding on to unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison and hoping that the other person will die.’
Jesus deals with it in the prayer He teaches His disciples by introducing the phrase, ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.’ The link there is very intentional and implies that you can’t have one without the other. But, knowing how slow we are, He almost sneaks this one in right at the end of the prayer, just to make sure we got it: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” [Matthew 6.14-15]
He echoes it again big time in the parable of the unmerciful servant, found in Matthew 18. From a place of realisation of all that you have been forgiven by God, the natural reaction should by you extending forgiveness, mercy and grace to those around you. But it is also something He commands us to do with the proviso that if we are unable to, then we surely will not receive forgiveness from God.
Which brings us to a second important Truth:
If we truly love God and our neighbor [another great command Jesus demonstrated so well in His life, and also in His death as He gasped out the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” while literally dying on the cross for those who had put Him there [Luke 23.34]], then forgiving them should be a natural desire for their sake, but the reality is that forgiving someone else frees us from bitterness, deep anger and hatred which threatens to eat us up. I strongly believe that if you live with any measure of unforgiveness in your life, that it will affect every single other relationship you are in. You cannot experience or offer true Love unless you are willing to come to a place of forgiveness towards those who have wronged you. [with the knowledge that forgiving them doesn’t mean what they did was not wrong or hurtful to you].
Which brings us to this absolute Truth:
If you have been deeply hurt by someone then everything in you may be wanting to revolt against that statement. But it is true. People can encourage towards anger. People can provide context for offence.
But each one of us decides whether we take it on or not. And remember the word in the Bible was not about anger being wrong, but rather it says, ‘in your anger do not sin,’ [Ephesians 4.26] which feels a whole lot more doable.
On the plus side, there is the assurance that God will not let the wrong go unpunished. “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” [Romans 12.20]
I know, I know, I too have wanted to suggest that perhaps that wasn’t necessarily meant as a metaphor in ‘this particular case’ but sadly the Greek holds up. But God has this. Don’t waste time, energy or health and don’t damage your other relationships in life by holding on to something that, like with pig at the top, may not even be affecting the other person even in the slightest. Extend forgiveness. Choose life to the full.