Forgiveness is a Choice

“Why did it have to be a friend
Who chose to betray the Lord?
Why did he use a kiss to show them?
That’s not what a kiss is for.

 Only a friend can betray a friend 
A stranger has nothing to gain.
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain”   (Michael Card)  

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself…” Philippians 2:5-7

A word is spoken, a deed is done, a spark is lit, and a fire rages.  The wounds of a friend can burn deeply and leave a pit so vast that it takes our very breath away.  We weep and others weep with us.  We cry out, “why?” with few good answers; the silence is deafening.

It is at those times that we, who have been redeemed by the Savior, have to hang on to and live out the Truth on which we stand.  It is not always comfortable to position ourselves there because everything in us wants to lash out and change the circumstances.  We want to establish that we are right and we want others to come alongside and battle with us.  Having others encourage us is right and good.  Paul tells us in Romans 12:15 to “weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn” and certainly broken relationships cause us to weep for ourselves and others who love us will share our pain.  But we must take care that it doesn’t become a bashing that leads to bitterness among many.  (Hebrews 12:15)

To look at a situation and see the insanity and hurtfulness of it is sometimes reality.  To lovingly confront sin in a brother or sister for the purpose of restoring them is commanded.  To devotedly face that one who has injured us and ask for answers or share our pain is part of relationships and it is good. But when the conversation does not bring answers or does not end in the way we would like or when their response is less than agreeable, we have a choice.

We can certainly “blame” another for our hurt, our wounds, and our attitude because they have truly done something hurtful.  But is that our “call?”  Will it bring peace and comfort to our souls and healing to the relationship?  To give up our pain is not to deny another’s sin or hurtful actions nor to make light of them; neither is it to absolve the other from any guilt in their decisions.  Rather, it is to go beyond what we “feel” and see and to be obedient to and imitate our Savior, who humbly gave up His rights and forgave those who rejected Him and ultimately asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him.  And  His Word is clear, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18) and “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)

The other person may need correction and, depending on the severity of the action, consequences, even punishment.  But apart from that aspect of it, we must focus on our attitude towards them and our response.  We can choose, in the words of a respected mentor, “to grow bitter or better,” to be submissive to God’s command to us and ultimately “strengthen feeble arms and weak knees” giving up our right to hurt the one who has hurt us or foster the pain and bitterness that will widen the rift between us and bleed out to others.  That is forgiveness; that is faithfulness over our feelings.

Hanging on to injuries of the heart is a choice to not give up “childish ways” (I Corinthians 13:11) which will wound us more deeply and for a greater length of time than the hurt caused by our brother or sister.  Additionally, it can spread like gangrene and create a bitter root that will be harder to dig out in our own lives and may defile others (Hebrews 12:15).  What does it mean to “defile something?”  To corrupt or ruin something.  How it must grieve our Father’s heart for brothers and sisters in Christ to have broken relationships, corrupted and sometimes ruined, because of our choice to nurture pain.

We can say, “It’s their fault that I am hurt” and it may well be.  But while the original issue may begin with another’s actions, we have a decision to let that grow into massive emotional destruction that has the potential to leave a barren wasteland or to put out the fire early and allow the process of healing and reconstruction to begin.

What we see and what we “feel” can often deceive. We can hang on to wounds from people, especially those we love, and allow them to fester or see them in light of truth and give them up to God to heal and use them for His glory and our greatest good.  We are responsible for our actions and attitudes not another’s response to them; so, when we stand and act on His Word, which is true, and don’t waiver, we will come out with a greater view of and deeper love for Him, a peace that comes from obedience, and an opportunity to point others to our Savior even if the circumstances don’t change.

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  I Corinthians 13:11-12

“When injured, don’t try to harm; instead, try to heal. Start with rejoicing instead of retaliation. Seek reconciliation rather than revenge.”  (Philip Thurman)