Forgiveness. There is so much meaning in those 11 letters. Almost all people have something to say about forgiveness. Most people will agree that it is a good thing to forgive. But if it’s so good, why is it so difficult to do?
Yesterday I was watching Spike Lee’s movie “He’s Got Game.” In the movie Denzel Washington’s character Jake, says to his son Jesus, “You get that hatred out your heart, boy, or you’re going to end up just another angry n—–, like your father. ” It is an extremely poignant scene because all throughout the movie the audience saw how much anger Jake and Jesus were carrying.
I am here to say that African-American men do not have a corner on the market for anger and hatred. Euro-American women have anger. Euro-American men have anger. Chinese-American women have anger. I would even hazard a guess that all nationalities have anger. It’s just that culturally, in the media, African-American men are portrayed as having all-the-anger.
Nearly every therapist, or doctor or pastor will tell you that hanging onto bitterness and resentment will hurt you and not the person with whom you are angry with. But more than hurting you, anger and hatred will hurt everyone around you, everyone who’s path you cross, everyone you love. My anger at my father hurt my children and hurts my grandchildren today. It is the gift (or curse) that keeps on giving.
You might be reading this and saying, “you don’t know what he did to me.” No, I don’t know what you endured; I only know what I endured. I endured childhood sexual abuse. I endured physical abuse. I endured my sister not telling me that my mother had died and finding out on the internet years later. Today, I endure the fact that my grandson is kept from me by his angry and bitter father. That little boy today, is getting new scars of anger on his heart, because of the angry and cruel things that have transpired between all of the adults in his life. So he gets to carry on that legacy in his life and in his children’s lives. When will it stop?
So, now that we have decided that forgiveness is good and resentment is bad, where do we go from here?
Let’s start at the cross. “Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” ” (Luke 23:34) I want to look at this for a moment. Here is Jesus, a man who has just been condemned and spit upon. He has been beaten and scourged, and a crown of thorns was placed upon his head. That blows me away, because I can’t even tolerate a headband all day, and he is wearing a headband of thorns pushing into his scalp and his forehead. I can’t manage a headache and he has blood streaming down his face, probably dripping in his eyes and mouth. Then he has to carry his cross through the streets and people revile him. Once there, he is placed on the cross and long, wide spikes are driven into his hands and feet. And then, after of this, he was able to forgive.
I am getting a little better at forgiveness, but I must admit I am not up to Jesus’ standard. When my grandson’s father kept him from us, I put angry, hateful posts on My Space, calling him out by name, which just made things worse and perpetuated the anger. About a year after all of the meanness started, God convicted me and I removed it. Two days ago, I was angry at my sister for keeping my Mom from me for the last years of her life. I am crying as I write this because I don’t understand how she could do that to us. So, I posted mean (but true) things on the internet about her. Today, I took them down. Even when I was writing it, I had doubts, but today God really convicted me. It will hurt no one but me and those I love. it might cause her a twinge, but not enough for me to bear it in my heart. So today, I choose forgiveness. The last time it took a year, this time it took two days. I would say that is progress and not perfection.
So, the next I get angry, I hope I look to the cross. It didn’t take Jesus a year. It didn’t Jesus two days. It was just there. It was such an integral part of being God, that He just did it.
What else does the Bible have to say about forgiveness. As I did a word search on forgive, the story of Joseph came up. This is another one of those amazing stories. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He spent years in a prison unjustly and eventually rose to being the second in command in Egypt. But he forgave his brothers. He had so much forgiveness in his heart that he wept for his brothers. Why can’t I weep for my sister?
Then there is the story of David. Saul was the king of Israel and was jealous of David, so he tried to kill him. David hid from Saul for years. David knew he was to be the next king because God had told him so. At one time, the armies of David and Saul were fighting and David had the opportunity to kill Saul, and he choose not to. That is forgiveness.
Matthew 6:14-15 says “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” That’s big. If I don’t forgive my sister, then God doesn’t forgive me. God says that we have to be holy and righteous to go to heaven, which means we have to forgive, because I am not righteous when I am filled with hate and anger.
So how am I to achieve this superwoman act? God says we are to obey, not that we are to be perfect. The key to doing this is in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” Obedience comes not from the heart but the will. So, today I choose to pray for my sister and for my grandson’s father. I am asking God to bless them and give them good, to give them a hope and a future, like He has promised me. Today, I choose forgiveness, and I choose to try and stop the cycle of hatred in my life and my children’s life. I am choosing the way of the cross. After all, aren’t we suppose to pick up our cross daily and follow Him?