During the past twelve months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from Croatia and Bosnia; people who shared their stories of what life was like in their country. What do you say to a person who lost a husband when neighbors stormed their home in the dark of night and shot him dead? I’ve never lived in a war-torn region, so I don’t know what it’s like to huddle in a bomb shelter. I don’t have a sister who was raped by soldiers. I’m reminded of the mass murders which occurred in Rwanda. Routine shootings that have become commonplace in urban cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.
Some face the sting of racism, bigotry, or hatred. Political philosophies differ causing people to say or do hurtful things. Religious behavior can dictate actions which bring shame upon the core values we claim to believe. Sometimes a hurt can't be caused in such a subtle way that it doesn't heal. We who cause hurts, move on past the rubble (while we are oblivious to the damage) much like a driver navigating around an accident they caused.
Experiencing pain caused by others leaves some of us with an emptiness and sadness. Some are left with feelings of resentment, bitterness, and anger. We face experiences in our lives that genuinely cause pain, sadness, and sorrow (to our self and others). What I’ve learned is that it’s not what I experience in my life that matters most. What matters most is how I respond, how I react, how I deal with my painful, uncomfortable, and troubling experiences.
Many years ago, I heard a speaker talk about forgiveness using Matthew 18:18 as his text:
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”1
The point of emphasis in his message is that when we fail to forgive, regardless of the offense, we bind that sin to our life as well. He shared some statistics about alcoholics being the children of alcoholics, and abusers having themselves been abused. It was very compelling to hear. The problem with hearing something compelling is that far too often, we identify it with someone else; not me, myself and I.
I believe that because of my unwillingness to forgive, I was held hostage by my own emotions of anger, ego, resentment, and my personal need for vengeance. Something which I’ve written about before on the subject of forgiveness is that I refuse to forgive because it doesn’t allow me to act as prosecutor, judge, and jury against someone who hurt me. The funny thing is that when I’ve hurt someone else, I have always determined that the evidence against me is inadmissible.
The scriptures which speak to my heart with resonance are:
- “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”2
- “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”3
Imagine being kidnapped and telling your abductor, “OK, I’ve had enough of this, I’m leaving!” Well, that’s exactly what Jesus is saying we get to do in the area of forgiveness; we have a choice! I can choose to hold on to unforgiveness, or I can choose to forgive.
The way of unforgiveness (Being a Hostage):
I lived a terrible childhood, growing up on the streets. It’s society’s fault I’m this way.
I can’t stand to look at you! Every time I see your face, I see your father.
You’re just like your mother!
People may justify the reasons why they won’t forgive, but how does one find forgiveness from God when they refuse to forgive? Sometimes a hostage has no idea where they’re being held. Hands and feet are bound. Eyes are covered so they can’t see, and their mouth is gagged so they can’t cry out for help. In instances like that, a hostage experiences fear, panic and hopelessness. But the spiritual hostage is simply ignorant of the spiritual power they have within to set themselves free. The spiritual hostage of unforgiveness binds their own hands and feet. They refuse to see the need for forgiveness by covering their eyes with the blindness of their own sins. They remain silent to the words of Jesus who said:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”4
They don’t hear the words of true freedom that sets them free from the bondage of unforgiveness. The words remain imprisoned inside their own attitude unforgiveness; they remain a hostage.
Next week, I hope to continue this topic on forgiveness. In the mean time, try to speak the words of forgiveness and be a hostage no more.
I've been hurt by others but my words and behavior caused injury as well. I've sought out those I've injured and when possible, I've acknowledged my sin and asked for forgiveness. I may not have been forgiven by everyone I've hurt but I am truly sorry for the trouble, sadness and pain I've caused. I ask you to hear my prayer of forgiveness. I no longer want to bind the pain of unforgiveness in my life, I no longer want to be a hostage, I no longer want to prosecute and punish anyone, I forgive them Father. I don't need them to say anything to appease me; they may never feel the need. In my heart, mind and spirit, I acknowledge that they don't know what they did. I'm not just praying for myself Father God, I plead for the release of those who've been hurt by others, hurt in the church, hurt by churchgoers, and hurt by those who do not recognize you, hurt by racism, bigotry, and hatred. Those hurt by religious persecution, political affiliation, class or gender, I speak the word of freedom in their life that they may emerge from the spiritual bondage which has held them hostage. Thank you Father for the power to heal our lives, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
|Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).|