There are two people who have given me a harder time in the past 2 years than I think I have ever had with people in the rest of my entire life. This could be, I suppose, because I have had a harder time for the past 2 years because of the death of one of my children than I have ever had in my entire life. But these 2 people I’m speaking of were people I specifically counted on to be helpful to me during the most difficult time in my life, and instead they, as I told my husband recently, vexed my soul. They made the very difficult process of grieving the sudden, unexpected, tragic loss of a son more difficult.
I am a Christian. I believe in the One True Living God, His Son, Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. I believe His written Word is Truth, and I am to live my life accordingly. I say this to say, I take its commands seriously. I don’t take them as suggestions that I can decide whether or not I want to believe. When Jesus said, in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”, I believe I better take it for what it is – a command with a serious consequence for disobedience.
But I struggle with forgiving others. It doesn’t come easy for me. Maybe it doesn’t come easy for anyone, I don’t know. But I do know it doesn’t come easy for me. I strive to forgive, though. Everyday. I pray to my heavenly Father to help me to forgive. Everyday. I believe it is of utmost importance. Yet I still struggle with it. I will find myself, in my weak and vulnerable moments (which have been almost everyday for the past 2+ years), mentally arguing with people, particularly the 2 aforementioned people who I feel have “vexed my soul”. Invariably, my mental arguments escalate to heated discussions, with absolutely no resolution…….every single time. I accomplish nothing, yet I persist.
As I was trying to go to sleep a few nights ago I was again engaging in a mental squabble with my vexatious imaginary friends, alternately praying to my very real and loving heavenly Father, asking Him to please help me to forgive them, when I heard His still, small voice reverberate through my thoughts. As I allowed the offense one of them committed against me creep back into my thoughts, He said to me, “That was nailed to the cross.”
My eyes popped open.
I lay very still…………
Listening to the majestic silence………..
Marveling at the mercy and love of God……………….
Humbled to the core of my being, yet without condemnation, as only God can do.
That is the Christian faith. That is what Jesus did for us. All of us. The entire population of the earth for all of time. He took every single sin every single one of us have, are or will ever commit upon Himself as He hung on that wooden cross 2000 years ago. It has taken me years to believe that for myself – that every sin committed for the entire length of my earthly life was nailed to the cross with Jesus. He took my deserved punishment upon Himself so that I could have His righteousness FOR FREE. An undeserved, free gift from His, and now my, Father. This is true for everyone. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is simply a Christian believes it and lives his/her life accordingly, and a non-Christian does not believe it and lives his/her life accordingly.
This free gift from God, this utterly complete gift of forgiveness, has been extended to the entire population of the earth since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The question is – will we accept it? And if we accept it – will we extend it to our fellow human beings? If we are followers of Christ and believe His Word to be just that – His Word – we must accept it and extend it, or risk the promise that God will not forgive us our sins.
So what exactly is forgiveness? This was such a difficult concept for me to grasp in my younger years. It seemed so abstract to me, until one day I heard my favorite doctor and teacher, Dr. James Dobson, talk about it on his radio program. That is when it began to make more concrete sense in my mind and in my life. The simple definition of forgiveness is to not hold an offense against someone, but that does not help me much. Dr. Dobson went further in his explanation by saying, when someone hurts us or offends us, we can choose not to hurt or offend back. Now it makes a bit more sense to me. Although doing it is still a challenge sometimes.
My grandmother introduced me to a phenomenal Christian author, Corrie ten Boom, when I was about 12 years old. She gave me her book entitled, The Hiding Place, to read one summer when I was staying with her. This amazing woman is the ultimate example of forgiving. She and her family were Christians living in the Netherlands during World War II, and were credited with helping some 800 Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust. They were betrayed by a fellow Dutch citizen and Corrie, her sister Betsie and their father were imprisoned. Their father died 10 days after being imprisoned, and later Corrie and Betsie were moved to a concentration camp where they were treated cruelly by the Nazis. Yet, Corrie and her sister remained committed to Christ and forgave their torturers.
What an example of Christlike forgiveness.
And what exactly is Christlike forgiveness?
As Jesus hung on the cross He was crucified on, He looked down at the soldiers who had nailed Him to that cross, and the Jews who had demanded He be hung on that cross, and He said to His Heavenly Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
That is the forgiveness God offers us all through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. That is the forgiveness God demands of us Who believe in Him. That is the kind of forgiveness I pray God helps me to extend everyday to every person in my life.
“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him….Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness….And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.” Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
“when we are powerless to do a thing, it is a great joy that we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus” Corrie ten Boom
“God’s viewpoint is sometimes different from ours – so different that we could not even guess at it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things….In the Bible I learn that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us.” Corrie ten Boom