By Karen Woodall
Writer, Editor and Blogger at switchbacks.org
The other day one of my kids came to dinner with a huge attitude. Not the attitude of a 5 or 10 year old. This was a full-blown middle school attitude! In hindsight, I think it had more to do with a conflict with her siblings rather than anything to do with the actual food on her plate. But, at the time, I didn’t have enough objectivity to properly access what was really going on. So after an extended session of eye rolling and complaining through most of the meal, I had developed a pretty bad of attitude of my own. So much so that I unilaterally declared dinner to be over for everyone. As she indignantly stormed off to her room, I started banging around in the kitchen, washing dishes, cleaning up, and simmering in my own anger over the ruined meal I’d invested time and food preparing.
An hour or so later she sheepishly came back into the kitchen to apologize and say she was sorry for acting badly. I told her it was okay and sent her on her way, but to be perfectly honest, I was still stewing in my own irritation and actively searching for ways to justify continuing my mental tirade.
It was only a few minutes later until the Holy Spirit got my attention enough to remind me how God responds to my admission of guilt and plea for restoration. First John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That means He accepts our sincere apology and restores us to right fellowship the minute we ask. No strings attached.
Micah 7:19 assures us that God will “have compassion upon us; He will tread sins underfoot. And hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” This poetic language reminds us that when we ask for forgiveness based on our relationship to Christ, God no longer holds our actions against us. He considers us covered with the righteousness of His Son and interacts with us just as if we have never offended Him with our blatant and often deliberate sin.
It’s this part of forgiveness that most of us need to emulate. While we might verbally say we forgive others for their wrongdoing, deep in our hearts, we often choose to hold grudges and hang onto our ungodly actions, thoughts and attitudes toward those who have hurt us or done us wrong.
I realize that dealing with the disrespect of a moody teenager is nothing compared to the unspeakable injustices that have been, and are being done to God’s people today, but Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13 are comprehensive in application and give believers clear commands to forgive in the same manor that Christ forgave us…And that is, fully and completely with no strings attached.
While we can’t really erase an offense from memory, we can choose to act toward the offender in a manner that demonstrates that we don’t hold their actions against them any longer. Our feelings may still scream at the apparent injustice of letting them ‘off the hook’ so easily, but the truth is that when we choose let it go, we find that we are the ones who become truly free, and in turn, we also become agents of God’s reconciliation in the world.
Karen Woodall is a writer and editor at InTouch, the teaching ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Atlanta, and the InTouch Ministries blog. She writes a weekly post for her own blog, Switchbacks: Finding God’s Path on Your Life’s Journey. She is an excellent writer with a heart for encouraging her readers. I highly recommend you visit her site. Her writing will bless you.