One of my favorite quotes of all time is “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This quote is attributed to everyone from “anonymous” (its ok to laugh) to Joyce Meyer. While the author is not known the message is quite clear.
Our own instincts tell us (perhaps with a little help from society) that the way to really punish a person and “stick it to them” is to harbor the offense. We spend our time thinking, rethinking and then playing out the person’s bitter words, insulting email or careless action. We relive the story as we call girlfriends, our husband or boyfriend and the girl in the cubicle next to us. Then, when that is all over we sit and simmer on the thoughts of what we’d like to say to the person or how we’d like to trip them if they walk in front of us (or maybe I’m the only one?)
Jesus is quite clear about his stance on forgiveness in Matthew 18:21 when Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him. Jesus responds in Matt 18:22- “No, not seven times but seventy times seven!” [PSA – this does not mean keep track and when the person hits times 491 punch them in the face, ok? That is NOT what Jesus was saying.] Now that I’ve gotten that out-of-the-way…
So what exactly is Jesus saying and doesn’t this mean that somehow he is opening us up to hurt over and over? Quite the contrary, what Jesus is saying is actually the only way to live if you want to live a life of freedom.
You see, biblical standards are an upside down version of what we think but thank Jesus that they are! The biblical standard of living not only leads to a life of freedom but also leads (in a very practical way) to our emotional and spiritual health.
If we hold on to unforgiveness because we are “right” we open ourselves up to bitterness, anger, resentment and in some circumstances, even rage. And a bitter, angry, resentful life is not the life I want to live. In addition, we allow the very people who hurt us to take control of our lives. They “live in our head rent free.” And I, for one, do not want to allow anyone to have that much control over my life (except for Jesus that is).
So today I choose forgiveness (I hope that you do too). I choose the God who promises that He will never leave me or forsake me (Deut 31:6). Not even so much for the sake of those who have hurt me but so that they no longer have control over my life. It’s one thing when someone hurts me and there is nothing I can do about it but it is another thing when I choose to allow them to hurt me continuously by choosing to harbor that offense and internalize it instead of giving it over to Christ.
Trust me, it’s not an easy decision to make. But God is the only one who can take those very offenses and replace them in your life with freedom and joy unspeakable. And who wouldn’t rather spend their days dancing instead of being angry? I know I’d rather dance.
So today, I choose freedom by choosing to forgive.