As I sit down to write this post, I am challenged to be transparent with you. I write as one in the trenches, as bitterness is one of my besetting sins. When I was in high school I was severely abused by someone I was supposed to be able to trust as a parent. As you can imagine, I struggled with the implications of this person’s actions against me. Long story short, I chose the worldly path and embittered myself against them. It was not until I became a Christian that I learned the true power of forgiveness. Let me share with you what I’ve learned about forgiveness on my walk with Christ.
Forgiveness is . . .
. . . Not The Choice Of The World
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly more bitter by the day. The world screams out for justice for a dead lion and death for the dentist who killed him, yet it hardly commended those suffering hearts in Charleston that forgave the man who entered their church and murdered in cold blood. The world has a false forgiveness and touts it as love, using it as a bargaining chip, but when you need the grace forgiveness offers, the world rescinds that gift and kicks a brother when he’s down.
. . . Not The Easy Way Out
When a Christian makes the choice to forgive they’re considered to be simpletons; weak and unwilling to fight for justice. Yet I can testify to how untrue those considerations are. Forgiveness takes a strong person. Not by their own strength do they forgive, but by the strength of Christ who fills them. The lesson Christ taught to us in Mathew 18:21 was not that you should forgive your brother seventy times seven times and then be done with it, but that forgiveness should be continually offered.
. . . Not About You Or The Other Person
Because forgiveness is a daily walk, not a momentary move for temporal comfort, the act of Christian forgiveness isn’t actually about you or the person being forgiven. Instead, it is all about Christ. Showcasing His love, grace and mercy on the Cross (Colossians 3:13). When we forgive it is because we understand the forgiveness we accepted from Christ, not because we are good or that we have become morally superior. Paul wrote in Titus 3: 3-6, “We were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hatefully hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” This is why we forgive because even when we were at our worst God FORGAVE us.
. . . Righteous
Forgiveness is righteous, plain and simple. Bitterness is not righteous; it is a huge, ugly disaster area. Isaiah 12 is a short chapter of only six verses and it celebrates the glory of God’s grace and forgiveness. Isaiah 12:1 states, “Then you will say on that day, ‘I will give thanks to You, O Lord; For although you were angry with me, Your anger is turned away and you comfort me.’” God offers us forgiveness through Christ. We are comforted by that forgiveness because the Father turned His anger away from you and me and poured it out on Jesus, the only One who could and can endure the wrath of God. When we are bitter we lose so much, and it doesn’t just hurt us. Bitterness disables our ability to sympathize with others, it can ruin friendships and makes it difficult to find joy and peace in life whether you be in a trial or enjoying rest in the proverbial pasture.
. . . A Reflection Of Thankfulness
Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.” Thanks to this passage of scripture I have come to understand that forgiveness is a result of thankfulness for Christ’s sacrifice of love. When we forgive we do it because we are thankful for Christ’s washing and regeneration. I was dually convicted of this during our first year at the Master’s Seminary when my seminary-wives group read Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The theme of that book was choosing to be thankful for the blessings and the trials that come our way. While reading this book and studying my Bible, I was so deeply convicted of my need to choose to be grateful for God’s forgiveness; I came to realize that my choice to forgive is a reflection of my thankfulness for God’s unmerited grace.
Forgiveness is the unconventional choice, and the world certainly sneers at the one who chooses to offer forgiveness. But bitterness buys you nothing and steals much from you. Christian, Christ smiles on the one who chooses to forgive over being bitter. If you are struggling with the sin of bitterness turn to Christ and let His justice comfort you. Repent and ask for grace to overcome the struggle, and find rest in the peace of His forgiveness.
“ To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because Christ forgave the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis