John MacArthur noted in a Podcast this morning how we are most like God when we forgive. Someone once said that unforgiveness is like taking a little poison every day and hoping that it hurts your enemy.
I once held a grudge against my boss’s boss, who I felt had done some serious wrongs to a good friend (among other things). He was like the pig character in the comic strip and I was like the rat. He was also a bully to nearly everyone in various meetings, including my team. I knew how to stand up to him, but others didn’t. Then one day I realized that I had to let the personal stuff go and just forgive him. That was liberating.
But with respect to how he treated my team I realized I had a different obligation. I let him know that his bullying, swearing and yelling were counter-productive to the results we both wanted to achieve because they were stifling discussions. People were afraid to speak up and solve problems because of his shoot-the-messenger approach. The appeal to his self-interest worked, and he made a surprisingly rapid change in his approach. And I didn’t get fired! (I wasn’t a Kamikaze; I let Human Resources and my boss know ahead of time that I was going to confront him.)
Things don’t always work out that well but parsing the issue into the personal (forgive and let it go!) and the professional/ethical (turning the other cheek on behalf of those getting injured isn’t noble) made a huge difference. God’s approach really works. Go figure.
This is a sobering passage about unforgiveness:
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
Matthew 18: 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servantfell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
The longer you live the more things you’ll have to forgive. If you hold grudges you’ll just become more and more weighed down with bitterness. Really, let it go.
As MacArthur noted, the sins of others offend God way more than they offend you — just as your sins offend God way more than they offend others. Let him deal with it. You’ll love the freedom that comes with forgiving others, and your relationships will improve.