FORGIVING AND FORGIVEN
I was a rookie missionary living alone in Brussels Belgium. I had arrived on August 25, exactly four months to the day before Christmas 1975. I was already dreading the coming holidays, because, though I had not lived at home for a number of years, I had always managed to be there for Christmas with my family.
After a couple of months, I acquired a roommate, another single woman. Virginia was a veteran missionary, who worked at the Bible College, where I would teach after I finished language school.
We decorated the apartment for Christmas, and I began to think “it might not be so bad after all.” I knew the college was planning a big Christmas celebration. I looked forward to it with great anticipation knowing that the fun would make up for some of the loneliness.
However, my roommate, who was at the school every day, never mentioned the party. I thought it strange, so I finally asked for details.
Hesitantly, Virginia said, “Faye, you can’t come.”
“I can’t come to the party, but why,” I demanded.
Then she told me that the president, calling his name, said that since I was not yet faculty and I was not a student either, I couldn’t come.
I was crushed. I wept like a baby. How could anyone be so mean? Didn’t he know I was alone for the first time at Christmas? I don’t know why it hurt so much, but from that moment, I deliberately avoided this man who had wounded me so deeply.
AND I kept crying. I cried for days. In fact, I cried for years. For years to come, whenever I thought of that Christmas it was hard to keep back the tears.
One morning, not having thought of this for years, while I was praying that incident came to mind, and in my spirit, The Lord said, “Get over it. You need to forgive this man.”
I immediately arose from my knees, went to my desk and wrote a letter. I reminded my old acquaintance of who I was repeating the details of the incident. I told him, that being alone and in language school, I was terribly hurt at being excluded from the festivities.
I wrote, “That was so long ago you may not remember, and you may not feel a need for my forgiveness, but I NEED TO FORGIVE YOU.” With that act of forgiveness, my hurt packed up and slipped away. The next time I saw this man I was able to greet him with joy. The past was gone.
Forgiveness is powerful! It is the intentional and voluntary release of resentment regarding an offense. It banishes any need for revenge or punishment toward the offender.
Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemy.” It won’t, but it may kill you.
The act of forgiveness is first and foremost for me, for the forgiver. I guarantee that I benefitted more from that letter than my offender did. I realized that he probably had no idea how he had hurt me, and I could move on without any malice in my heart. There was no residue of resentment or desire for revenge or punishment toward this man.
Forgiveness guards against anger, stress, anxiety and depression. It even provides health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and aiding heart problems, and it brings peace to the soul.
People who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments.
One must be strong in order to forgive. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” Forgiveness cannot be an occasional thing, it must become a continuing attitude, which means “we must cultivate a forgiving spirit.”
When I think of forgiveness, I think of Christ and how He is faithful and just to forgive us. C.S. Lewis wrote, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
Luke 15 records one of the greatest acts of forgiveness in the Bible. It is the story of the Prodigal Son, who took his inheritance and wasted it in riotous dissipated living. When he was broke with nothing to eat and no place to go, he came to his senses remembering that even his father’s servants had three meals a day. He decided to go home, confess to his father, and beg his forgiveness. Little did he know that his father stood ready to forgive and to celebrate his son’s homecoming.
I can testify to the fact that it is wonderful to be freely forgiven by my heavenly Father, and because He has forgiven me, I must be willing to forgive those who have wronged me. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If I do not forgive others, He will not forgive me.” That should give us pause to think.
In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Jesus, “…how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.”
Who do you need to forgive today?
Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!