Philippians 4:13 – I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (NIV)
Pepper came from the local dog pound. Gregarious and active, he loved nothing better than our walks to the post office each morning. One morning, however, all that changed. Another much bigger dog was tied to the fence in front of the building. This didn't bother Pepper at all; he loved everybody and everything. It soon became apparent, however, that the other dog did not, and, unfortunately, Pepper took the brunt of his aggression.
Though left unscathed physically — other than some bad bruising — this unwarranted attack was something Pepper never forgot, and, for a very long time thereafter, whenever he saw another dog, even from a great distance, he would go nuts barking and growling and lunging at his leash. A canine behaviour specialist explained that, due to his age when he was attacked, this experience was indelibly printed in his memory, and he would never really forget it. With training, lots of consistency, and hard work, however, he did finally learn to deal with such situations in a much more acceptable way.
Sadly, it is not only canines that occasionally attack one another. For various reasons, people can also act in very inappropriate ways, lashing out, and bringing hurt emotionally, physically, and even spiritually to one another. Such attacks can leave the victims angry, resentful, bitter, scarred, cynical, and too frightened to trust others whom they encounter. When this occurs in a person's life, such as it did in mine, we need to remember the meaning of Christmas. "For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NIV) Jesus came to earth as a babe, lived a human life, and grew among us. Jesus was loved and hated, was attacked without just cause, and was crucified, so that we might be forgiven for our sins — unwarranted attacks on God, ourselves, and others. Forgiveness, when experienced personally, continues to remind us that we, too, must learn to forgive others, and, yes, even those whom we feel have done the unforgivable.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or loving what has been done to us, but it does mean coming to a point in our lives where we can forgive the person who committed the deed. It means coming to a point where we can once again respect the fact that even this person is created in the image of God, and is someone whom Christ loves and died for, just as He did for you and me.
Forgiveness is hard work, and, within ourselves, we cannot always accomplish it, but in Christ we can do all things.
This Christmas, let's all think about one of the greatest gifts we can give, both to ourselves and to someone else: the precious gift of forgiveness through the priceless gift of Christ Jesus.
Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your love, forgiveness, and acceptance of us through Christ Jesus. Grant that we might, in turn, draw upon the strength and love of Christ Jesus to give the gift of forgiveness, love, and acceptance to those around us, even those whom we may find extremely difficult, and, in our minds, unforgivable. In Christ's name. Amen.