From the Heart of Bill
I remember years ago watching on the evening news a man in India who poured gasoline on himself and lit himself on fire. I remember thinking, “That’s CRAZY… why would anyone want to do that?” and I asked a friend of mine from India what would cause a person to do such a thing. His answer shocked me. He said, “For some in my culture if someone has hurt you; the way to get back at them is to hurt yourself even more in their presence,” and he went on to explain that the people who were lighting themselves on fire were mad at the government so to get back at them they lit themselves on fire.”
You say, “That’s CRAZY!” and I would agree, but don’t we do the same thing when we refuse to forgive those who hurt us. Jim Jones (your Lay Leader) said at breakfast, “Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Some of you (I suspect) have drunk from the fountain of unforgiveness and it’s starting to take its toll. A lot of people refuse to forgive because they have some misconceptions about what it means to forgive. Forgiving is NOT whitewashing or minimizing the seriousness of the offense. Forgiving is NOT saying, “It’s no big deal!” It was a big deal. Forgiving is NOT saying, “It didn’t hurt!” It did hurt. Forgiving is not saying, “It was a small thing!” It was a big thing and that’s why you need to forgive it.
This might surprise you. Forgiving is NOT forgetting. Some people will say, “Doesn’t the Bible say that when God forgives that He forgets?” (Isaiah 43:24; Hebrews 8:12) When the Bible says that God “Remembers our sin no more,” it’s not talking about God suddenly getting amnesia. What it means is that God does not hold our sin against us anymore.
Forgiving does not allow that person to avoid the consequences of his/her actions. I can forgive a murderer, but that doesn’t mean that that person shouldn’t have to face the consequences.
Here is what forgiveness is: Letting Go! Letting go of what? Letting go of your right to get even and letting God handle that person and putting that person’s faith in God’s hand.
Forgiving is one of the most personal things a person can do because nobody can force you to forgive another person. It’s a decision that only YOU can make. It’s a very personal thing. It’s also a very freeing thing. Some of you also know the power of forgiveness. It’s like a million pounds has been lifted off your back. Some of you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. Forgiveness is one the most freeing things a person can do!
Corrie Ten Boom once said, “To forgive is to set the prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was YOU.”