Forgive us the wrong we have done, as we have forgiven those who have wronged us. Matt. 6:12, NEB.
Sometimes it feels so good to be driving down a long freeway, mind in semineutral, recalling how another person has done us ill. Our mind wanders through scenes in which we publicly humiliate them, proving that they were wrong and we were in the right. As the miles pass we fantasize about friends taking sides with us against the wrongdoer. We might even miss our off-ramp as we finally picture the judgment in heaven confirming our personal verdict!
Our supposed ability to judge correctly the failings of another makes us satisfied with our own sense of justice and right. Too often we need to nurse a grudge, rehearse a wrong, as a way of feeling OK about ourselves. To build up all kinds of bad feelings about another person, to drain off major energy into dark memories, to ration out little tidbits of forgiveness only when we feel avenged—but what a waste!
We miss the point of how useless it is to judge other people. Perhaps that is why it is so hard for us to grasp God’s forgiveness. As human beings we have no experiential reference point, no familiar feeling in our own soul, by which we can make sense of a God who forgives. As a result we think that should we forgive someone who has wronged us, it would be as if we were saying that their wrong really didn’t matter.
Lewis Smedes, in his book Forgive and Forget
, suggests that forgiveness is really for us, not for the one who has harmed us. Forgiving cleanses us of all the accusations and built-up animosity we have directed at others. These benefits to us help us sense why God is so eager to make His forgiveness known to us. When we let go of our petty grudges and move on to forgiveness, then we understand that God has indeed forgiven us.
Real growing has nothing to do with announcing other people’s failures. Rather, it has to do with helping them learn the lessons from their bad choices and then move on. Learn the lesson and move on—that’s all. And that’s all for you, too.Are you nursing a grudge? Is there someone you need to forgive? Perhaps you need to forgive yourself. How can you allow the lesson to be learned and move on?
Used by permission of Health Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.