As we are right in the middle of a Resurrection weekend I was thinking of what might be somewhat equivalent in our relational lives to what Christ has done for our spiritual lives.
Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice out of love for us, but what might be an ultimate relationship sacrifice?
What a powerful word. Letting go of hurts simply because we can is a sacrifice. Everything inside of me rebels against this concept when I am in pain over a real or perceived offense. And many offenses are not only real, but severe and overwhelming.
I think the hardest times to forgive are when the hurt is ongoing or when the person who has hurt us is not fully acknowledging the offense. This puts us in a tough place. Why would we even want to choose forgiveness in these situations? Why would we want to make this kind of sacrifice?
Primarily, unforgiveness hurts me. It festers inside me like an unhealed wound. It leaks poison and makes me sick. My resentments keep me from feeling at peace.
Secondly, it hurts my relationships. Holding on to offenses may cause me to withhold love, respect or kindness from relationships that I value. Even if the other person is unrepentant I can choose to forgive because it opens the door to restoration. And sometimes that will lead to a softening in the other person that might lead to repentance.
Thirdly, God requires it. To whom much is given, much is required. Do you feel you have been given much? Matthew 6:15, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, is a powerful admonition:
“But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
I do want to point out a few things, though. Forgiving is not forgetting – it is letting go. Forgiving is not accepting the offender’s behavior as okay – maybe far from it. And forgiving does not require us to move towards reconciliation – especially when it would be unhealthy to do so and open us up to ongoing damage. Some people are just plain unsafe.
I like to say I am taking someone “off my hook” and putting them on God’s – and let Him deal with the person. In doing so I am free.
This Easter weekend perhaps you can examine your relationships and determine if there are places where you need to make the sacrifice of forgiveness.
Ephesians 4:32. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.