Sunday, January 12, 2014
Maybe Some People Just Don't Know They Need to Forgive
Hebrews 12:15 (ESV)
I have always thought of the lack of forgiveness as a volitional act. I believed that those who lacked forgiveness did so because they refused to forgive. I now wonder if some people are unaware of their unforgiveness.
Several years ago I asked God to reveal to me anyone I hadn't forgiven. I had been challenged to do so but expected that there was no one whom I needed to forgive. However, I began to remember the pain that others had caused me in my past. Some of these events I didn't even know existed in my memory. Some of these events were in my childhood before I became a believer. I realized that I had never forgiven those who had caused me pain and was secretly carrying animosity toward them.
I knew I needed to forgive these people. So, I forgave each person whether or not I could remember their names as each painful memory surfaces. It took weeks until my buried memories ceased to come out. I felt cleansed in the end.
Recently I spoke with a woman with whom I felt had a hatred that she was unaware of. Her negative attitudes toward others as she described her own suspicions of their motives and actions made me think that she had hurts deep within which had never been forgiven. I honestly believe that she has forgiven everyone she has known. Yet, I know she still holds her father's remarriage after her mother died against him. I know that she has had some disappointments with her family which have hurt her deeply. I also know that her response of her father and the rest of the family is an expression of loving them deeply.
Can you love someone without forgiving that person? Yes, I believe you can. But the love you have may mask the lack of forgiveness you are also holding against that person. The lack of forgiveness may be a defense mechanism to keep you from being so trusting that you are deeply hurt again. Thus, I believe she has a root of bitterness which has grown slowly but is missing the grace of God.
It seems I learn more about Hebrews 12: 15 each time I read it. The person who lacks forgiveness also fails to realize his or her own forgiveness. The grace of God is not the prevalent characteristic. A cynicism and animosity of events and people characterizes the carrier of this root. Therefore, this root causes trouble because, while the person may not actively cause trouble, he or she does not do anything to stop the trouble either. Trouble prevails when the grace of God is absent. And many are defiled because of this trouble.
Not too long ago a new family joined our church who had not attended church anywhere for decades. They had been attenders for a couple of years before finally joining the church. The father told me that he had been in another church as a young man. He had been given a position of leadership just before many in the church had done hateful things to the pastor. He said that his former church no longer existed.
I surmised that this is the reason he and his family continued to come without making a commitment to join. They had been hurt before and didn't want to repeat the experience. I wonder if the members of the former church had some root of bitterness which caused them to take hateful actions. This man and his family were part of the collateral damage.
Many times people can't truly tell me why they feel a dislike for others. (They know better than use the word hatred.) Could it be that there are painful events in their past? Could it be that they have never forgiven those who caused the pain?
I know this. My own attitude toward others changed dramatically after I asked God to reveal those whom I had never forgiven. Now, I forgive people more freely than ever before. The grace of God is all around me and enables me to do so.
I encourage anyone reading this blog to ask God to bring up any event or person for which forgiveness has not been truly given. I am not talking introspection. Just ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of what you haven't forgiven. Don't try to prompt Him and see what happens. I believe it will be as cleansing as it was for me.