Mary Karr’s uncle had taken all he could take! The tall Texan grabbed his chain saw and began to split his own house into two halves. He was sick and tired of living with such an unforgiving woman with whom he had not spoken in months. He had had enough. He
divided his house and moved her portion a few hundred feet away. The two of them finished their days on earth living on the same farm, in the same house… living two very separate lives.
That sad-but-true story is all too real in our community. Every day, many husbands and wives, moms and dads, will park their cars in the same garage, pillow their head under the same roof, share food from the same kitchen—yet live two very separate lives.
When you have been wronged, something has been taken from you, someone has damaged you, injured you, or taken advantage of you—the greatest thing you will ever do is to let go. To forgive. To set them free. We set them free of the penalty and debt that they owe us. It’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Even though we know it’s the right thing to do, that doesn’t mean we can—sometimes I want to forgive and feel like I can’t! It’s not just a switch that I can flip and just, poof, there it is. It’s not that easy, and God knows that! He understands, that’s why He always links your decision to
forgive another to a motivator (blessing) or a consequence (curse).
For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses -Matthew 6:14-15
The funny thing about forgiveness is that it doesn’t just set them free, it sets you free, too. It frees you from the acid of resentment. It allows the wound to begin healing. When you forgive, you release yourself from negative emotions that will hold you hostage. The Bible is very clear about how bitterness will continue to cut and hurt your spirit (Hebrews 12:15). But that’s not all… if the grudge isn’t dealt with, it’s toxins will leak out of our lives and ruin those closest to us.
People like Oprah and Dr. Phil are mainstreaming the idea that we cannot truly forgive anyone else unless we first forgive ourselves. We have all tried to apologize to someone only to have them refuse it.
I have longed to say that I’m sorry after it’s too late and they’re gone. I know what it’s like to need to hear that I’m forgiven and to never have the satisfaction. And that’s why I can’t stop punishing myself for my mistakes.
The reason that it’s so hard to forgive yourself is because it’s impossible! You and I can’t set ourselves free—no more than a prisoner can will himself outside of the bars and razor-wire. Freedom must come from a higher authority—from God. The Bible never mentions forgiving yourself. Not one time. Our need is indeed forgiveness, but not the kind you can give yourself… but the freedom that God gives.
Jesus told the story of a servant who owed the king $15 million—but was totally forgiven. He could not repay, yet due to the kindness of the King, he would not have to! This servant then went out found a fellow-servant, grabbed him by the throat, and demanded $5,000 from him. Since the debtor could not repay, he was cast into prison. When the King heard the news, He demanded that his servant be brought to Him. Since this man received grace and forgiveness, yet could not grant the same, he would be judged.
You and I have been totally forgiven. Our sins have been paid for. That’s why Jesus Christ died on the cross—to suffer the punishment that you and I deserve. Just like He accepted the blame so that we would not have to, we must accept what He did as the payment for our sins. I met a man a while back that told me he was good enough to get to heaven. It shocked me! He said that he was a good man—better than most — and that he thought that was enough. I asked him, “If we can be good enough to get to Heaven, then why did Jesus have to die?” He replied, “That’s easy, for the bad ones.” What he was saying was that he did not need (nor accept) what Jesus did for him. He did not want God’s charity. Until we experience God’s forgiveness, we will never be able to forgive those who hurt us.
The secret to healing is in forgiveness. Forgiveness for you. Forgiveness through you. The way that Christ wants to set you free is through forgiveness. He wants you to know that you are forgiven and that, in Him, you can forgive anyone for anything.
Do you remember what happened on October 2, 2006? A man carrying a 9mm, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a 30-.06 entered the West Nickel Mines School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and shot 10 Amish girls. He killed five, wounded five, then killed himself. Yet the thing that consumed the media in weeks following was not the evil of this man, but the forgiveness of the families. How could a parent forgive a person for taking the life of their beautiful girl? Only God gives that kind of healing. Only God can put back the pieces of a shattered life. Now the New Hope School stands as a reminder of the hope that forgiveness brings.
Remember the Duck!
On impulse, Billy pulled back and let the slingshot go—killing his target, Grandma’s pet duck. He panicked and hid the dead duck under the woodpile only to look up and see his sister, Sally, silently watching with a sly grin.
After lunch, Grandma asked Sally to help with dishes. “Johnny wants to do them today. Don’t you?” Then she whispered, “Remember the duck.” So he did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if Johnny wanted to go fishing. Sally jumped in, volunteering Johnny to help with supper. He protested—until she whispered, “Remember the duck.” She went fishing as he helped with supper. After several days of doing both his chores and Sally’s, he couldn’t stand it any more. He confessed to Grandma what he’d done.
“I know, Johnny,” she said, giving him a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.” -Richard Hoefler
God already knows, and He’s forgiven you. Have you accepted it? We must confess (come clean) to lift the guilt and to be set free from the slavery of sin’s whispers.
Aren’t you tired of being a slave? I am.