THE HARD WORK OF FORGIVENESS
I used to think that some things were simply unforgivable, rape and murder among them. I felt completely justified in hating the ex-boyfriend who raped me. To forgive him seemed to mean that what he did was OK, and it wasn’t. What I have since discovered is that forgiveness isn’t endorsement and it certainly isn’t accompanied by warm, fuzzy feelings. Forgiveness is a choice we make. The directive to forgive those who have wronged us comes from God. He asks this of us, not because it is easy, but because it is good. In fact, He knows, better than anyone, the cost of forgiveness. God himself models what He asks of us. He asks us to forgive others, just as He generously extends His forgiveness to us. (Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32 ESV, Mark 11:25 MSG) Jesus paid with his very life. He knows the cost. But, He also knows the freedom it brings. As I have committed to the hard work of forgiveness, I have discovered that it is a vertical transaction between God, and me, more than it is a horizontal one between me, and another human. I have heard it said that forgiveness is setting someone free, and realizing the prisoner was you. At first I forgave out of obedience; but when I finally forgave, I realized that I was the one being held captive by my unforgiveness. For years, I was filled with hatred and rage towards the person who raped me. To be quite frank, I even wished he would die. Crazy enough, one day, I received a phone call informing me that he had been shot in the head. After all of those years of wishing him ill, suddenly, he was in a hospital fighting for his life. And you know what, I didn’t feel good or relieved as I imagined I would. In fact, I felt a horrible sense of guilt for having wanted something like this to happen. The bullet to his head left him with a brain injury that affected his memory. I am quite certain that he has no recollection of ever having raped me. While this is an extreme example, in many cases, the people that have hurt us go on living their lives, often unaware or apathetic to the depth of our pain, while we are left with anger, hurt, and bitterness. Unforgiveness holds me prisoner. The way for me to get free is to set others free. With rage and bitterness absent from my heart, there is room for more precious things like joy, hope and gratitude. Going before God and releasing the people who have done wrong to us by forgiving them isn’t always easy, but it is good.