Before going into ministry I worked as a sports reporter, and I often interviewed players from both the winning and losing teams after a game and got their perspective on what happened. The answers were very predictable: if they won, credit was given to their teammates; and if they lost, the players would try to explain what they did not do right in the game. It was almost like they had a manual on how to answer the questions in a proper way.
Likewise, in my years of interviewing persecuted Christians, I have discovered that many of them give similar answers to my questions. They, too, have a Manuel on how to respond in a proper way. However, unlike the athletes, Christians like Manini, Bukar, Mohammed and Christine gave their heartfelt answers based on what they learned from God’s Word. What the Bible tells us is the right perspective is what they truly believe. I have observed that those who are passionate in their relationship with Jesus Christ, regardless of where they live in the world, say the same things because they are reading and mediating on the same Book. They can genuinely respond with forgiveness because that is what their Manual says they must do.
This side of heaven, we all will have countless choices to forgive or to grow bitter. For some of us, it’s the little things that we do not consider significant enough to “forgive” can add up, gradually hardening our heart so that we have difficulty forgiving. Many others have experienced a traumatic event or personal tragedy that makes unforgiveness seem a natural choice.
We all have excuses not to forgive. They aren’t going to pay if I forgive. But how does your refusal to forgive them make them pay? Turn them over to God; He’s the one who will avenge (Romans 12:19). I can’t trust them, so I can’t forgive them. Trust and forgiveness are two separate issues. Forgiveness has to do with our relationship with God. If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:15). We all need to be forgiven. Trust, on the other hand, needs to be earned. You can forgive someone and not put yourself in a position to be hurt or victimized again. They need to ask for forgiveness before I can forgive them. Read Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21–35 to see why waiting for a person to ask for forgiveness is a bad idea.
Like Manini, Bukar, Mohammed and Christiana, we need to forgive. Christ’s example on the cross is the last word for His followers. We cannot choose the path of bitterness. Too much is at stake!
Consider and Share:
- Have you had to forgive someone of a significant offence? To forgive does not mean to forget, nor does it condone the offence. When you remember the offence, remember you have forgiven.
- Can you talk about your experience without speaking badly of the person who offended you? Can you do as Jesus said to do in Matthew 5:44, and pray for that person? By faith, do this today, because others will learn from your example.