Forgiveness does not change the past. Forgiveness enlarges the future. Resentment chains us to the past. Forgiveness brings us freedom for our future. Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person suffers. Forgiveness is like drinking refreshing water, restoring us for the next season.
In this life you will be hurt. You will either live with resentment or forgiveness. Every day you and I live with, work with, and rub shoulders with blemished people. And through the course of human relationships, we will face hurt, whether intentional or unintentional.
I am not minimizing the hurt or pain you have faced from the actions of others. Many of you have some horrific stories of how people have mistreated, betrayed, abused, verbally wounded and hurt you; stories that go way beyond the pain I have faced. I am sorry for what has gone on.
Perhaps you have thought it does not matter whether you forgive. It does matter. It may not matter to the other person. But it certainly matters to you and your future.
There is a man written about in the Bible. He and his family were disrespected at his birth. An evil king tried killing him as a baby by ordering every boy age two and under in his birth town be killed. He and his family went to another country to escape death and when they went back to their home country, for safety, they were forced to live in another district.
As an adult, he went back to his hometown, taught in the synagogue, and the people were so furious with what he said they tried pushing him off a cliff. As his career went on, many people tried twisting what he said, misquoted him and tried to discredit his integrity and reputation. People openly and vocally hated him. He had many death threats and physical and emotional attacks.
Towards the end of his life in his mid-30s, he told his three best friends of his deep sorrow and asked them to please keep watch with him. Three times he walked away and when he came back, they had gone to sleep.
His treasurer stole money from him and betrayed him so he could be arrested. After his arrest for doing nothing wrong, his closest friends deserted him and fled. His best friend three times denied even knowing who he was.
His trial was completely unfair. Standard protocol was not followed. While being led to his death, he was brutally beaten, spit on and mocked. Even one of the criminals, hanging on a cross next to him, mocked him.
Talk about a guy who had every right to live a bitter, resentful life and death. And yet, Jesus said these words, just before his last breath, “Father, forgive them.” The reason Christians are commanded in the Lord’s Prayer to forgive those who have wronged us, is because forgiveness is our only path to freedom and a bigger, brighter future.
Receiving the forgiveness of Christ and walking with him is step one. This gives us the ability to forgive. Praying for the person who hurt us is step two. This changes our perspective and softens our heart