My client was struggling with forgiveness. “I didn’t want to forgive. The person never asked for forgiveness, wasn’t really sorry, they meant to do it and if forgiven I might have to be nice to them.” Of course, this is why God really shouldn’t forgive us either. Why should He? He is sovereign and gave us free will to follow Him. Its our job to lead a life free of sin not His. Right?
Forgiveness is one of the most stubborn words in our vocabulary. Its hard to do. When we forgive we become vulnerable to attack. We have given permission to another person to have wronged us.
In a recent sermon, Pastor David Mullen of Ascension Lutheran Church quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer from this book The Cost of Discipleship: “My brother’s burden which I must bear is not only his outward life, his natural characteristics and gifts, but quite literally his sin. The call to follow Christ always means a call to share the word of forgiveness—the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian’s duty to bear.” Pastor Mullen followed with his own words: “To forgive is to die to self in a real way.”
When we forgive, we push down our own pride. We become the servant. It is the cost that we don’t want to pay to the other. We would prefer to hold onto to the wrong for egotistical leverage.
It is what God did when He allowed Jesus to die on the Cross. It became His job to help us lead a life of forgiveness, even when He didn’t have to. (Col.3:13).
When my client finally went through the grueling task of forgiveness, he sobbed nearly uncontrollably. For the first time in his memory he was able to forgive the childhood abuse: Then verbal berating he took, the beatings with a belt buckle, and Bible verses used against him, padlocking him in the house all day alone. The next session he told me that he visited his…..mother…….for the first time without anger toward her. He also began to control his anger toward his wife and family and others he was using to shift his own internal anger onto others.
What an emotional relief to forgive instead of invoking the stressful burden of revenge!