The ABC’s of Wisdom: Building Character with Solomon - Forgiveness
Letting Go of the Past
A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
Many Christians struggle with issues of anger and bitterness because of things that have happened to them in the past. How do we find freedom from those angry feelings? May I remind you of two truths? First, you are to forgive because God has already forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Second, you are to forgive because you promised God you would forgive. Every time you pray the Lord’s Prayer you are promising to forgive. “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
As long as you hold a grudge, you are chained to the past. As long as you are angry about the way you have been treated, you are still living in the past.
Recently a friend made a statement that stuck in my mind. Out of the blue, she said, “I have decided to forgive him.” No conditions, just a simple declaration of intent. That strikes me as an entirely Christian thing to do. We choose to forgive even when some part of us would rather hold a grudge.
The most important truth to know is that forgiveness is an act of the heart. You forgive by a conscious choice of your will. For those who have been deeply hurt, forgiveness means consciously choosing not to dwell in the past, not to constantly repeat the sordid story of what was done to you. It means actively deciding you will move forward by faith, letting go of the bitter feelings one by one.
This isn’t easy, and it won’t happen overnight, and you will probably need the help of some good friends who can help you talk through your feelings and hold you accountable to move forward and not backward. But it can be done.
In one of her books, Corrie ten Boom tells of some Christian friends who wronged her in a public and malicious way. For many days, she was bitter and angry until she forgave them. But in the night she would wake up thinking about what they had done and she would get angry all over again. It seemed the memory would not go away.
Help came from her Lutheran pastor to whom she confessed her frustration after two sleepless weeks. He told her, “Corrie, up in the church tower is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. When the sexton pulls the rope, the bells peal out-ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong. But if he doesn’t keep pulling on the rope, the sound slowly fades away. Forgiveness is like that. When we forgive someone, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They are just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.”
So it’s not surprising if, after forgiveness, the memories keep coming back for a while. If you refuse to dwell on them, slowly they will fade away. Why? When you forgive, you let go of the rope and the force is gone out of your anger.
Lord Jesus, You showed us how to forgive those who hurt us. Help me to do that, I pray. Amen.
What are the major forgiveness issues in your life right now? What needs to happen in each case so you can “let go of the rope"?
Do you have a friend with whom you can talk over these forgiveness issues?
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