To be sincere, in retrospect, I really did not get it. What it was really about.
Forgiveness is easy to talk about, easy to understand when you are the one encouraging someone to do it. But when you've been disrespected, slandered and pretty much torn apart from the mouth of either someone close to you or someone whose respect means something to you. Then you really know if the Word is alive in you or if it is just conveniently alive in you.
It's been a little over a week since a huge blow up happened between me and a close younger relative and then my heart was exposed to me. I figured I didn't really care much about what this person says because she always came across as arrogant, ignorant and immature. I just laughed whenever she said something "interesting" about someone or if she acted in an "interesting" way. But when it was all turned up against me, a lot of the anger issues I was dealing with from other sources, which I didn't take up to God, came spewing out like an intense, scary volcanic eruption. I knew better, but to hell with better, I wanted to whoop some butt!
For the first time ever, I understood the bible verse "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." (Ephesians 4:26).
GOD's WORD translation puts it this way:
"Be angry without sinning. Don’t go to bed angry." Do not go to bed angry. We really do not give much thought to that because it's easy to accept and unconsciously convince ourselves that we are no longer angry. We easily accept that yes, we were angry, even God allows it, but no, we did not sin and more than that, we are not going to bed angry. But if truly we are going to bed without anger in our hearts, this is how we know:
"Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry - but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life." (Ephesians 4:26, The Message translation).
Do I need to say more? That pretty much explains what it means to be angry and sin, and what it means to go to bed with anger in your heart. Do not use your anger as fuel for revenge.
In my heart, even though I wasn't going to go on an attack rampage on this person, I was going to "put her in her place". I "needed to set her straight". That right there was completely out of God's will. Completely. I had essentially given the devil a foothold in my life. And as I read these scriptures now, I remember how that night was. I found it difficult to worship and be intimate with God, so I began to pray for the Holy Spirit to help me, for God to lift all barriers and as was praying I started to say I forgive this person and I went to say I forgive other people who had said things to spite me weeks earlier. Remember I said earlier that I took out all the anger bottling up in me on this person. The Holy Spirit took me back to that. Just an aside, I love how God is so real. The Word of God is alive and the Word says we do not know what to pray but the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We Christians are quick to put God in a box and assume that's when you speak in tongues. But I was praying in English and every word hit me to the depth of my soul even though prior to that I thought I was over that incident. But God showed me through prayer the real intent of my heart.
As I said that prayer, tears were flowing out my eyes uncontrollably and I felt myself surrendering. Just plain surrendering. Some words are not enough to capture the intensity of the moment. And I literally felt something lift off me. I love God and this again shows His desire for me. It shows that even though I had given the devil a foothold and the true desires of my heart was like cursing God to His face, He still desired my company. He still wants me when I do not want Him.
This is forgiveness. When we left go of negative emotions no matter how much people hurt us, and turn around and say to God, I'll follow you and love this person. I'll forgive.
This is what happens when we do not forgive:
"14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15).
The Message translation breaks it down. "In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part." (The Message).
The Bible goes further in Matthew 18:35 and says "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." This is when Jesus shared the parable about the servant who was forgiven his sins by his lord, but who wouldn't forgive another just like him for what he did to him.
Sweeping it under the rug isn't forgiveness. God forgives us from the depths of His heart. That is exactly how we should treat others. "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:21-24). Do not just sweep the matter under the rug.
But this cannot happen outside of God's help just because of man's ways. As a scripture in the Psalms says, return to God by the help of His Hand. (This is the God-Junkie Standard Version, when I find it I'll update this). We have to take God's Hand, which He offers us freely, opening up our hearts and letting Him be God.
People are bound to upset us, but as God's babies, we should imitate Him as dear children imitate their fathers. "Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." (Luke 17:1-3)
May God bless and deliver you from all pain, shame and whatever else may be involved as you unbottle your heart and let God be God. In Jesus' name, Amen.