Judi was walking by the jewelry store one day in the midtown mall. She saw a diamond bracelet that she really liked. In the store she went.
“Excuse me,” she said to the sales lady behind the counter, “Will a small deposit hold that bracelet until my husband does something unforgivable?” *
I (Dawn) laughed at that, but really, should we ever not forgive our spouse? Unforgiveness is a sorry habit to have; it’s one that we need to lose before we destroy our relationships.
I remember a time, early in my marriage, when I was really ticked off at my husband Bob. I thought he was insensitive to my needs, and I told him so. He looked really shocked, and he apologized right a way. That should have ended it.
But it didn’t. I decided he needed to suffer a little longer.
So I didn’t talk to him … for two days! I did everything I could to avoid him. I was smug and quietly nasty.
And totally self-righteous.
And then I went to church that next Sunday. And wouldn’t you know it, the pastor spoke on Ephesians 4, talking about unity and maturity in the Body of Christ.
The Lord had His own private message that cut straight to my heart. “You’re not being very mature, Dawn, and you certainly aren’t working toward unity with your husband.” I scooted down lower in the pew, frowning.
But you don’t understand, Lord. Bob….
“I’m talking to Bob about something else right now. Listen to me.”
“Listen to me!”
The pastor’s words broke through my thoughts right about then: “Get rid of all bitterness … Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
It was that last phrase that brought the tears. How did God forgive me in Christ?
Freely. Fully. Liberally.
I thought about how many times I had offended God, yet He forgave me because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin (Ephesians 1:7). Forgiveness is costly ~ I thought about what forgiveness cost Jesus.
I thought about how unfair I had been to Bob, turning my back on him with the “silent treatment.”
I not only had to forgive Bob, I had to ask for his forgiveness for my sullen, vengeful spirit.
Author Nancy DeMoss describes forgiveness as fully releasing the offender from his debt. “It means fully cleaning his record,” she said. “It is a promise never to bring up the offense against him again (to God, to others, or to the offender himself.” **
God taught me much through the whole experience. Most definitely, He gave me a glimpse at my ugly stubbornness and pride.
I found forgiveness easier after that. I’m quicker to forgive, remembering the undeserved forgiveness God gives me. I’ve also learned a lot about forgiveness:
- God delights to forgive and show mercy (Psalm 86:5-7; Micah 7:18-19).
- If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9-10; Psalm 130:4)
- It’s useless to make prayers or offerings to God until we have forgiven others (Mark 11:25; Matthew 5:24).
- Love and prayer are marks of a forgiving believer, and should extend even to our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).
- Our forgiveness should abound to others (Matthew 18:21-22)
- If we are “spiritual,” we will restore those who offend, responding to them with a gentle spirit (Galatians 6:1)
Perhaps you’ve never held a grudge like I did for two days. Or perhaps, you’ve held one for years. The problem with holding grudges is that the anger swells up inside your heart and crowds out all your joy. Grudges are like extra baggage you can’t afford to carry. Life is too short to hang onto all that bitterness. And it surely does not please Father God.
Remember the words of Ephesians 4, Friend. “Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you” (4:32, The Message). For the believer, forgiveness isn’t optional.
Quick, thorough forgiveness is a precious jewel in Christian character, and a sign of walking close to God. Are you a forgiver?
** Nancy DeMoss, booklet: Freedom through Forgiveness