Let’s talk for a bit about forgiveness. Webster’s defines the word forgive as “to excuse a wrong or a wrongdoer.” It’s an easy enough word to bandy around. When someone has committed some slight against us, “I forgive you” comes to our tongues lightly as long as the slight is just that … slight. The truly hurtful things people do, well, that can be a different story. We tell ourselves that some things are just too horrible to forgive, and store away our hurts, to be brought out at will for further examination. Take me for example. In 1994, my dad was brutally murdered by three teens and a 21-year-old. He was beaten to death with an axe handle for the money in his wallet. That day I lost my dad, lost track of my faith and walked away from my job in law enforcement because it had suddenly become too personal. I have vague memories (at best) of the next several days. I was numb throughout the business of death. I’m told that I didn’t break, didn’t eat and didn’t sleep … but the memories are too wispy for me to grasp. The one memory that refuses to die, however, is the memory of what an axe handle can do to a human skull and face. When I think of my dad I have to fight to get past that picture to find a more pleasant one. I literally spent months after the murder hovering on the edge of a breakdown, but too stubborn to slide over the edge.
Fast forward the picture, if you will, to the present day. I’ve not only found my faith again, but have established a close and personal relationship with Jesus. I work in ministry now and counsel people on a regular basis to “let go and let God.” But that it is easier to say than to do. Much to my dismay, I reached a point where I found that I had buried my hurts and my anger so deeply that they had become a part of who I am. They’re like an old and comfortable pair of shoes … too ugly to wear in public, but too familiar to throw away. What I thought I was over has never left the building. Yes, I had been over this with God countless times in my spiritual growth, but like a closet that is stuffed to the brim with junk, so was that box of pain I stored so tightly in my soul. I would open the door to the closet, pull out one or two items, slam the door shut and pronounce it “clean.” Those of you who have ever cleaned out a junk closet, drawer or room know that it’s never that easy.
When I was finally ready, God reminded me of some Scriptures that gave me a spiritual wake up call…
Matthew 6:14-15. “For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.”
Mark 11:25 “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
By burying my anger and pain, I was being disobedient in more than one or two ways. I was refusing to forgive the four who took my dad, yet I had no problem asking Christ to forgive me for my own sins. I was judging the four, and finding them “too bad” for grace. But who am I to judge them? Who am I to determine that their sins were so bad that even Jesus couldn’t (or wouldn’t) pay their price just like He paid mine?
Luke 6:37-38 “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged. Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned. Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Give, and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete, therewith it shall be measured to you again.”
Matthew 7:2 “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Romans 14:10 “But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”
Yes, we’ll all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Psalms 32:5 tells us “Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and You took away the guilt of my sin.” I John 1:9 says “But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.” What happens when we confess our sins? Psalms 103:12 says they will be removed “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” So to remove my sins, I must confess them … not hide them. My own eyes may not see them, but God’s sure do. If I don’t give them to Christ, then I’m stuck with them, and on judgment day I’ll be answering for them.
Look at your own life. Do you have some hidden sins of unforgiveness or judgment that you’ve had stored away for so long that you no longer remember that they’re there? Have you been holding onto hurts for so long that they’re nothing more than little trees in the big forest of your life? Many modern day prophets have said that this is going to be a year of restoration for the body of Christ. Let today be the day that you start to let God restore you. Clean out the closets of your soul and cut down those trees that, while lost in the density of the forest, still drop leaves and limbs into your life. The debris does nothing but hurt you and it lays shadows into areas of your life that you believe to be untouched by that particular pain. As it builds up, you get so lost in it that you don’t see that every area of your life is touched by the destruction it leaves behind.
Pray with me if you will … Father, today I come before you to ask for restoration. Please help me to see the pains that I’ve been holding onto and let them go. Forgive me for not forgiving others and for judging what is not mine to judge. Please give me the strength to cut out what is not from you and the faith to know that you will fill up the empty spots left behind with your love. I pray this for myself, as well as for my brothers and sisters in Christ. In your Holy Name I pray … Amen.