I traveled to Natchez last weekend to speak to the ladies at Parkway Baptist Church. We had so much fun that I almost wished I didn't have to leave. Even more, I was honored they asked me back as their conference speaker for the second year in a row. Thank you, Parkway!
Driving back, my mind began to wander as I thought about the topic of forgiveness. Total forgiveness is a miracle in itself in what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. But when someone speaks untruths about me or hurts my feelings, do I totally forgive them? It's so easy to say, "I forgive," but when their name comes up in a conversation, those old feelings begin to fester like a deep-rooted cyst that's reappeared.
When Jesus told us to forgive, His ultimate goal was our freedom. You can't be free from something if it has a hold on you and that's exactly what unforgiveness does. There is no such thing as 50% or 80% forgiveness. It has either happened or it hasn't.
So how do you know you've truly forgiven someone? When you come in contact with them, you don't have any negative feelings toward them. It's almost as if you have completely forgotten what happened. Secondly, you won't let them feel intimidated by you. God doesn't do that to us, so why should be make someone feel uncomfortable for their past actions? Third, you'll have compassion on them and not the need to get even.
Colossians 3:12 says, "Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." I don't read any room for negotiations in these verses, do you?
I look back now at some of the greatest hurts in my life with a grateful heart. I have learned more about myself through the pain others caused me than at any other time. And with each prick at my spirit, God seemed to elevate me to a higher level with Him and multiplied the blessings. Forgiveness is the ultimate act of love.
When you get free from unforgiveness, someone else gets free.