Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
There was a young man with a clear message written on the back of his T-shirt. It said, “Life’s a case of mind over matter. I don’t mind because you don’t matter”. Quite a statement, isn’t it?
It sends the message that he didn’t particularly care about anyone else except himself. Making ourselves number one on life’s list of priorities is firmly entrenched in today’s society. Maybe this is because negative emotions show themselves far more readily than good or positive ones. As a result, we express irritation rather than compassion, criticism rather than encouragement, hate rather than love. Not everyone is prepared to do something for nothing, or if we receive some act of kindness, we’re slow to show appreciation.
Perhaps we complain a lot and say people should do more, or we carry grudges around for years, or even a lifetime, over wrongs that have been done to us. I guess you know people who carry grudges like this, with their desire never to forgive.
Forgiveness is Liberation
In fact, there’s not much joy to be gained by seeking revenge. If we’ve been hurt by someone else, what we need is inner peace, not hate. And that can only happen when we offer forgiveness. I know it’s easier said than done, but holding a grudge or failing to forgive is a heavy burden that we carry.
Medical people say that those who forgive others enjoy better mental and physical health than those who hold grudges. The refusal to forgive is most common among people with high anger and fear levels.
Forgiveness is liberation—it frees people, the forgiven and the forgiver. But forgiveness is our great gift. We have to condition ourselves and practice forgiveness, and it doesn’t come easy at first and needs lots of practice.
But as a Christian, God helps us in our faith, and he gives us the ability to see others as children of God. We learn to forgive as we look at Jesus Christ our example. He lived to serve and teach and help others. He healed the sick, brought the dead back to life and fed the hungry. He came to his people, and yet they rejected him, and falsely accused him and sentenced him to death. Jesus was mocked, beaten, forsaken by friends, and yet he was able to say the words, “Father, forgive them”.
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Grudges Turn Into Bitterness
If forgiveness was the overriding emotion in our hearts, what a wonderful place this world would be. Broken families would be reunited in love, hatred would disappear, and the ethnic and racial intolerance problem would disappear. People would love each other as God intended, putting aside their differences, and concentrate on following him. Then we would see his love working through our lives.
If we don’t forgive, no matter how many times we are called on to do so, grudges turn into bitterness and bitterness turns into hatred.
I like the story of a little boy who came to his grandfather, hurt and angry with a schoolmate who had hurt him in some way. The grandfather tried to explain that hate could wear him down, and said:
it’s like there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offence when no offence was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and then only in the right way. The other wolf—he is full of anger. The smallest upset will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone for no reason. It is helpless anger because it changes nothing. Sometimes it’s hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.
After he had told this story, the little boy looked into the old man’s eyes and asked: “Which one wins, grandfather?” The grandfather smiled and said, “The one I feed”.
How true. If don’t feed on the grace and love of God, the other wolf of anger and resentment will come out. We each have choices in life and need to think carefully what we plan to do with our lives. The Bible says:
Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ. (Ephesians 4:32 – GNT)