Murphys, CA…After having a plan for this week’s column, and doing all the research and preparation for it, I have just decided to go completely in a different direction. I really do not know where this new theme is going to lead me, and therefore us. I don’t have any notes or outlines or Scripture highlighted. But the Lord told me several times in the last few days what I was supposed to explore. It is definitely related to healing. So I will attempt to discuss what I believe is one of the most difficult human challenges: forgiveness.
My first message was while I was recording earlier this week for a Christian Talk Radio show about healing. I was asked what lessons I felt I still had to learn. I had sort of a preconceived idea about how I thought I would answer that question. But the Lord placed the word “forgiveness” in my head. Always ready to listen to and follow the Word of God, I found myself saying, “Forgiveness,” on the radio.
Next, I opened my evening devotional and the verse was Luke 6:27-28. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Ouch.
Third, the priest who interviewed me on the radio called me! He wanted to give me the opportunity to speak of the forgiveness I was seeking based on the comment I had made on his talk show. He also highly recommended of course that I speak to my own minister, which I did.
Last, this morning at church, we received our weekly letter and lesson from our Bishop. Guess what? That’s right… the Sixth Duty of the Anglican Church… Forgiveness. He reminded us of Matthew 18:15-20 that says we should approach someone if we have something against them.
There is something that so intensely binds up our spirit when we have not forgiven someone. We all know it is actually like a gift to ourselves, as opposed to something we do for the person who has wronged us. But it is so much more. It is a profoundly Christian quality. We do not forgive to bring about good Karma. We don’t even do it because it’s just the right thing to do. We do it because Jesus forgave us and calls us to do the same.
To experience a fullness in Christ, and complete joy, we have to be free. This is an integral component of confession and of trying to live a sinless life. It is also true of forgiveness. You know how you feel when you see or think about someone who you have not forgiven? That yucky, burdened feeling? It even ruins what may be a fine day or situation. That is the Holy Spirit guiding you.
I think I am really having a hard time with this obstacle because the person with whom I struggle truly did something wrong to me! It’s not an illusion. It’s not that they didn’t do exactly what I wanted, or that I just don’t like them. This person actually committed sins and betrayals and illegalities against me. But none of these are excuses. The Bible calls us to forgive. Period. It is a blanket statement that does not allow for a judgment call like, “Forgive them, unless they did something REALLY bad.”
Here’s something really crazy: I have forgiven other people for way worse stuff! It has also really baffled me (for like 5 years!) because this person doesn’t even matter within my daily life. It’s not a family member who I have to deal with on holidays, for example. It’s just a random person who treated me egregiously and I have asked God many times why I can’t just let it go. But particularly now as I battle cancer, when my physical and spiritual health are so delicate and yet so important, I must!
Here’s another funny aspect: I’ve considered approaching this person and telling them that I have forgiven them. I am fairly certain how that encounter would go. I would most likely be greeted with a completely puzzled expression. Therein lays a great unfairness. The victim holds onto to the sin, while the sinner does not.
Now here’s some good news for me. I have begun the process. And I believe that forgiveness is often a process. I long ago decided I did not wish any harm or misfortune on this person. Many times I have asked God to help me. I guess it’s sort of like temptation. Being tempted is not the sin. It’s your reaction that has the potential for disaster. That is, my mind and Christian spirit have forgiven this person; I am just still suffering through the slowly-unfolding journey.
But I will rest easy, knowing that everything difficult is a good sign that it’s important and worthwhile. And I guess now that I’ve shared my testimony regarding this struggle, I am doubly accountable. I know God’s Word. I know what I’m supposed to do. Now I have to keep doing it.
“But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15
Editors Note…Catherine’s fight with cancer and the manner in which she has fought it publicly has been an inspiration to many. If you would like some context and a more personal look at her battle you can find it on the Caring Bridge Website Here! We would like to welcome Catherine as one of our contributors and we hope her story can help you along your journey in life.