If you are reading this, you have been walking on this earth for enough time to be in a family, make friends, join groups, and be on team. You may even have been here long enough to have co-workers, employers, or employees. This means it is most likely that someone has hurt or offended you. At first you may feel hurt, then angry; then you may feel a desire for revenge or for this person to be punished. It is an understandable desire. I would imagine all of us have felt this at one time or another. The questions is, what good comes of it? Does this give us control? It feels like it, but if we look at it honestly, we recognize that the grudge has taken a hold of us.
Am I willing to set aside my desire to judge and let God take care of that? Do I believe God will handle it right? Nearly all, if not all, Christians would say that God is perfect and just; yet, so often we want to take care of the judgment and punishment piece for Him. You have been relieved of all judging duties. God has that job well managed. Continuing to pass judgement or hold a grudge against others is a sin and it stands in the way of our freedom.
When we hold a grudge – in other words, when we choose not to forgive – that grudge begins to take hold of our thoughts and feelings. We feel unsettled, impatient, angry, and like we are a victim. A victim is not a victor. As we continue to hold a grudge, it grows in its impact on us, not our offender. Bitterness builds as love lags behind.
We tend to forget that Jesus died on the cross to accept the punishment for our sins. That means everyone’s sins. If we choose to withhold forgiveness from someone, it’s as if we are saying Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross wasn’t enough.
There is great freedom in forgiveness. By forgiving. you free yourself from the painful poison of bitterness. Forgiveness also is one of the best ways to reflect the love of Jesus to others. That includes the one who has offended you and those who are observing from the outside.
Forgiveness does not mean you are saying the offense is no longer wrong. Nor is it saying you should remain near someone who repeatedly hurts you. Forgiveness means you no longer hold onto anger or bitterness toward a person who has hurt you. It means you do not wish revenge or harm to come to that person. It means you are free from the negative impact of the hurt they have caused you. It means you’ve moved from victim to victor!
When I think about what forgiveness is, I realize what an amazing thing it is that Jesus took the punishment for my sins and chose to forgive me. It is wise for me to remember that His forgiveness is available to everyone – including those who have offended me. I pray that we all find freedom in forgiveness.