Grace and Grudges

      Today we live in a culture of outrage and offense.  So many are building their lives on resentment.  In contrast, Christians are called to be people who offer forgiveness.  We do not always walk this calling out well.  Most of us have a person in our life where our teeth clench when their name comes up.   We must address these issues so that these understandable angry feelings do not take up permanent residence in our hearts.  We know we must forgive.  But how do we forgive?
       Remember, it’s commanded.  Our feelings rarely prod us to forgive others, but Christ does.  His parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) reveals the deep callousness of our hearts when we are forgiven but refuse to turn around and forgive others.  If we claim Jesus is the Lord of our lives, here is a place where we must bow the knee and accept His authority and act accordingly.   
      Remind ourselves that we are forgiven. If we are Christians, we have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness for our sins offered through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When the gospel is faint in my thinking It’s harder to forgive, but when we remember the price paid for our sins it calls us towards living a life marked by grace.  C.S. Lewis once said, ““To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you” (Forgive, Timothy Keller, 68).   When we remember the grace extended to us it motivates and empowers us to forgive others. 
        Embrace the truth.  Our calling is not to excuse people or to act like a serious betrayal was no big deal.  Forgiveness requires that we expose the truth of the sin against us.  Do not call the adulterous betrayal of your spouse a mistake.  Call it adultery, the breaking of what was intended to be a permanent, life-long covenant.  Feel the full weight of that deep wound.  Yes, forgive so that you do not remain chained to one of the most painful moments of your life.
      Show compassion.  Seek to see the whole person, not just their offense against you.  The person who wounded you has their own story.  Try to see them as the broken person that God loves not just your enemy.  If you can listen to their story you will understand their behavior better.  Their brokenness and trauma history does not excuse their terrible behavior but it will help you understand it better. 
     Cancel the debt.  You must surrender your “right to revenge.”  We are not violent, but we may seek revenge through social media or slander in the community.  We have to actively choose to set aside our grievance story.  Telling it to anyone who will listen hurts them and us. 
      Aim for reconciliation.  This one is not always possible or even desirable.  For example, the battered woman would be foolish to put herself back in the presence of a violent husband.  The husband whose wife cheated has every right to walk away.  In contrast, in most everyday forgiveness situations, reconciliation is possible and desirable.  How many marriages could be saved and families restored if the wounded person would actually heal to the point where they could be open to reconciliation?  In cases where it is possible and desirable, a restored relationship is the highest form of forgiveness. 
      The road of resentment leads to deep pain and isolation.  The path of pardon leads to peace and wholeness.  Christians, the forgiven must forgive.
Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church