Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)
Forgiving each other is not always easy.
In the movie, The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II, a sincere believer, discovers that her uncle, the exiled Edward VIII, had plotted with Hitler in an attempt to betray England, and she finds that she cannot forgive him. She is angry and feels betrayed personally as well as on behalf of her people. When she meets with Rev. Billy Graham, he counsels her to ask God to forgive her unforgiveness. We do not know if the story is true, because Rev. Graham always kept confidences.
My father served with the British Royal Commandos during World War II. He never said that he killed anyone, but he was a sniper, and commandos did not take prisoners. Though he related humorous stories, he never spoke of atrocities, but rejected God because of them. When he died suddenly in his early sixties, his doctor told us that Dad had the body of an 80-year-old "due to the war". He suffered with stomach ulcers for years, and never slept properly. What went through his mind at night?
There is so much injustice in the world that forgiveness is becoming increasingly difficult. There have been charges made against men prominent in society by women who claim grievances from years ago. Charges are brought against leaders who betrayed trust when their victims were children. War criminals are still brought to trial. Our courts today are so backlogged that cases are thrown out after a certain interval. We crave justice for wrongdoings, no matter how much time passes.
Matthew 5:44 – But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (NIV)
Romans 12:19 – Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Don't take the law into your own hands. (TLB)
A Christian was forced to take his stepdaughters to their father for court-imposed visits when he knew that the man molested them. He now serves a life sentence for premeditated murder. He knew God's commandments, but he did what he felt he must. God forgives our sins, but there are still consequences.
Sometimes when time passes, we are surprised to hear, "That's not how it happened at all." How is that possible? We may recall events very clearly, or things happen so fast that we cannot take it all in. Our memories are shaped by emotions. Our brain can block out traumatic events. We might not be aware of all the circumstances.
Whatever happens, we must still deal with our feelings. It is not easy to forgive. It is often harder to forgive ourselves. But harbouring a grievance festers inside us. By asking forgiveness for our unforgiveness, we confess that sin. Upon consideration, that advice seems like a good first step towards actually forgiving.
Prayer: Father, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Your command to forgive is so simple, but so difficult to put into practice. Forgive our unforgiveness, then, and help us to place our grievances in Your hands. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
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