For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14 New International Version (NIV)
Forgiveness is one of the hardest acts to do but also one of the most rewarding. Many have heard the saying, “Forgiveness is not for the other person but for you.” Although it might be hard to wrap our minds around, it is actually true. Allow me to paint a vivid picture for you:
When we hold on to unforgiveness it kills our joy. It steals our peace and destroys our future. Sometimes unforgiveness has an irreversible impact on others. Unforgiveness does the same things the thief does.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10
July has been a trying month for our nation, and it has weighted heavy on my heart. As I think about the victims and the shooters in all cases, my question is why? Although I don’t know the full details of any of the cases and can only speculate, what I do know is the Dallas shooter said he wanted to kill cops. The Baton Rouge shooters were targeting cops. I wonder: Did they have unforgiveness in their hearts?
Sometimes we carry unforgiveness for many years. I can understand that. I can understand being hurt by others for no apparent reason. I can also understand people not liking you simply because of your skin color. Although I have never knowingly been a victim of racism, I have been caused distress by my own family because of the pigment of my skin. I don’t know which is worst, but what I do know is hanging on to someone else’s opinion of you will leave you bitter, angry, and unforgiving.
As a child, I was oblivious to what the name they called me meant; I was called it for many years. It wasn’t until I got older that someone told me. I don’t ever remember crying about it or trying to retaliate; my parents raised me to respect my elders. Beyond being raised right, I attribute my lack of anger to God’s natural design.
As I reflect on my childhood, I’m reminded when Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”- Matthew 19:14
Children are so pure in heart; they hold on to no wrong and are forgiving by God’s design.
I believe this single event in my childhood was the catalyst that allowed me to forgive others. Because I was a child, and the intent was beyond me, I didn’t know that I should be angry or resentful. I think back and realize that I have just never really held on to unforgiveness. Perhaps because by the time I realized certain members of my family were using derogatory language towards me, it was too late to be angry about it. At the same time, however, I have been mad at others and retreated away, BUT in the back of my mind, I always knew I had to make things right regardless if I was right or wrong.
I could have very well allowed this event in my childhood to become the pathway to a life of unforgiveness. There have been many times I found myself perplexed, hurt, and betrayed by others and life’s situations. It was during these times that I knew I could find comfort in Jesus.
As a Christian, forgiveness is expected of us from our Heavenly Father especially if we want Him to forgive us. Secondly, forgiveness frees us from bitterness, hatred, and strife. Forgiveness allows us to live a life full of peace and unshakable joy.
Unfortunately, unforgiveness has killed, stolen and destroyed so much in our nation. When you count up the cost, families are destroyed, dreams and possibilities are buried, children and parent bonds are cut short, photo album pages are left blank and hearts are left with holes. Unforgiveness affects so many lives, some lives that had not part of the act(s) that caused the brokenness. We must learn to forgive and forgive quickly.