“Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”
– Corrie ten Boom
Jesus was oppressed, persecuted and betrayed by the religious leaders of his day – those who said they represented the very God who stood in front of them. Corrie ten Boom was imprisoned, tortured and nearly starved to death by an evil empire ruled by a hate-filled despot. What’s the difference?
Who is more difficult to forgive:
• Those who have served God alongside of you for many years who then disrespect, betray and shun you? These would be fellow Christians who have been your spiritual leaders, your friends, people who you’ve shared meals with, traveled together, taught together and even looked up to. Pastors, family members, band mates and mentors.
• Evil people who you’d expect to act this way? Dictators, thieves, criminals and money-hungry bankers, mortgage lenders and politicians.
Does God allow us room to withhold forgiveness from those who have been our closest friends and spiritual leaders? Jesus certainly didn’t wait to forgive those who betrayed Him. He hung on that cross and asked the Father to forgive them, to refrain from judging them. Does He understand the depth of betrayal we feel from those who name His name? Of course He does. Jesus was also persecuted, tortured and put to death by an evil empire – those who did not name the name of God – and it didn’t make any difference to Him. He extended forgiveness to all.
I’ve talked to many people who’ve left churches for a variety of reasons – many of which are legitimate and understandable – who feel judged, shunned, “unfriended” and betrayed. In almost every case, they’ve found it very difficult to forgive and forget, to move away from the deeply held hurts and wounds, and to get a sense of freedom from the pain they feel.
I also know a lot of people who have been victims of crime, or treated unfairly by those who are not Christians, those who don’t necessarily follow the Golden Rule. Mostly, I’ve heard that it’s easier for them to move on from these violations, and to forgive those who have wronged them.
It seems that it’s a matter of expectations.
We expect fellow believers to walk in love. We expect pastors and Christian leaders to treat us fairly and to remain humble. We expect pastors to be faithful to their wives and families, and to resist pornography, adultery and other sinful behavior. We expect our brothers and sisters in the Lord to defend us when we are wronged, and to love us when we differ in theology or when we resist the latest wind of doctrine blowing through the Church.
On the other hand, we really don’t expect evil people to act righteously. When they steal from us or harm us in any way, we’re not surprised. Forgiveness seems easier to give because we fear for their souls, and we want them to know the Lord. We love them quickly because we desire for them to sense the love of God and come to Him. We can even see God’s hand in allowing their actions, because it gives us an opportunity to love the evildoer and shed God’s love into their hearts.
But judgement, mistreatment and arrogance from another Christian – especially a pastor? Boy, does that wound go deep! I’ve spent time with that wound, and can speak from painful experience. And I’m not alone. It’s very difficult to “forgive and forget” when we’ve been hurt by another Christian, and only the love of God, working in our hearts and minds, can free us and help us to extend that kind of forgiveness.
When we finally reach that precious milestone, though, it’s freedom. No longer are our minds bombarded with thoughts of “righteous anger.” No longer are we held captive by resentment. No longer do we hold God accountable for the actions of a few weak people. No longer can the devil use other people’s sin against us.
When we forgive – no matter what the offense has been, or who has carried it out – we’re free.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Posted on June 26, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged betrayal, corrie ten boom, expectations, forgiveness, freedom, oppression, resentment, righteous anger, shunning. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.