If there is one thing that I am great at in life, it is holding grudges. To this day I can think of a number of things that I still resent:
• The nasty phone call that came from a group of rowdy middle schoolers when I was in seventh grade
• The invitation that never came to a friend’s Christmas party in high school
• The former bride who removed me from her wedding via email
• The man who took the life of my best friend
And these are just the top four!
I can’t begin to tell you the isolation that comes from a life of unforgiveness. Relationships that could have been repaired, were all but forgotten on my end. Even in the rarest of circumstances, when I actually did forgive a wrongdoing, it was purely conditional and based on the assumption that I would never be wronged again. I was ok with the infrequent “forgive and forget” mentality, as long as the offender never forgot that I forgave.
Ironically, I suppose the joke was on me because in my resentment towards others, I found myself bound even tighter in my bitterness than I would have ever been in my mercy.
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” – NIV
Unfortunately, if you are like me, you are scared to hear that our attitude toward others is a basic test of our acceptance of God’s forgiveness. In our grudge-holding and animosity, we are failing that test daily.
If someone has really taken the Cross personally – actually understood the reality of its message and applied it to their life – only then can that person truly understand mercy. Like it or not, it is just not possible to simultaneously appreciate the magnitude of God’s forgiveness and withhold forgiveness from others. It just isn’t feasible.
We must always remember the depths from which we came and, only then, may we sympathize with others where they currently are.
I read once that to forgive is to set a prisoner free, and then discover that the prisoner was you.