Forgiveness Means Freedom
Paul tells us that love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5). Love doesn’t pick fights, but it also doesn’t keep a running record of someone else’s wrongs.
When someone has hurt us, perhaps verbally, and those cruel words have been said and have lodged in our thinking, it is hard not to keep a running record on the one who caused us so much pain. Now here is a chance to really see ourselves as others see us. Do kids remember the evil said or done to them on the school playground – or worse, said by a parent who tells them they are no good and they never should have been born? Yes. Do adults remember hurtful words? Yes! But Paul said we need to mature past this. As we grow up in Christ, we should be able to learn the art of forgiving those who hurt and harm us, not keeping them accountable forever. This is certainly easier preached than practiced. It is awfully hard not to harbor a grudge, yet love lets go of the wrongs done to it. Forgiveness relinquishes the right to vengeance. Vengeance belongs to God, and He will repay. Justice needs to be done, and we can expect people to be accountable for crimes and wrongs done, but vengeance is not our business.
The Bible says, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them” (Lk. 17:3). But what if he doesn’t repent? Then I hold myself ready to say, “I forgive you” if the time ever comes; but in the meantime, I refuse to harbor anger, bitterness, or resentment.
I was teaching in a Bible college not too long ago, and a young girl was assigned to look after me. She was beautiful, godly, and bright. She was a chartered accountant and was putting herself through college while keeping her career going. At the end of my week, I was eating dinner with her and teased her about not being married. “How did you escape?” I kidded her.
She didn’t reply for a moment; then she said hesitantly, “I was married.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know.”
“That’s all right,” she said. And I could see that it was. It wasn’t all right that her husband had walked out on her in a particularly cruel way, but it was “all right” in her heart. It was well with her soul. Peace like a river flowed there. She had been able to let go of the terrible wrong done to her. What was more, the Lord had helped her to look at the future as God’s future for her, and she insisted on seeing a better day ahead. True love from God keeps you from being discouraged.
This young woman at Bible college shared very few of the salient points of her story with me. She gave me the bare bones and spared me, and herself, the details. I knew she had left a multitude of information out of her brief account, but she refused to wallow in self-pity, and she had not kept an account of every sin. She had forgiven him. Not that he had sought her forgiveness, but she stood ready to say, if he ever did get around to asking her, “I forgive you fully and freely as Christ has forgiven me!”
Forgiveness is truly freeing!
Jill Briscoe is the Founder and Executive Editor of Just Between Us magazine and ministry.