I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard!
As author of a book with the theme of forgiveness, and as an international speaker with a thirty-year history speaking on this subject, I thought I’d heard every possible excuse given for not forgiving. (For hadn’t I used them all myself, parroting each of them to God during my own battles with this issue?) But I was wrong.
I missed one.
When I first heard this unfamiliar excuse I was doubly shocked. First, because it fell from the lips of a minister whom I loved and respected and, secondly, because of the reason itself.
“We don’t have to forgive unless that person asks for our forgiveness,” the minister said, with quiet authority.
I heard this statement again recently from another Christian who explained it this way: “God doesn’t forgive us unless we ask Him for forgiveness, so we don’t have to forgive others unless they ask us.”
“But we are not God,” I responded, “and we don’t hold salvation in our hands.”
Thus began a long, albeit friendly, verbal battle, each of us dueling with our favorite scriptures, often identical.
I doubt that my friend’s opinion was altered; I know mine wasn’t. But I at least had the opportunity to point out that forgiveness is not for the offender’s benefit, but for ours.
I related how I was chained in bitter bondage until I forgave my father who was serving time in prison for premeditated attempted murder of my mother. Amazingly, after terrorizing and abusing my mother and us children for twenty years before his attempted murder of her, my father not only never took ownership of his actions, but he also blamed us for his incarceration—threatening to “get us” after his release.
My resentment and bitterness grew with each passing day until it was eating me alive. After a long battle (described in detail in my life-story book) I breathed in the fresh air of freedom the day I forgave my father.
Sadly, when my father died many years later, he still clung to his declaration that he had been a good husband and loving father except for his “one mistake”. Had I waited for my father to ask me to forgive him, I would still be in bondage. I’d be a resentful, miserable, and bitter old woman whose life’s goal would consist of daily rehashing over and over and over every wrong my father did—and the pain I endured because of it.
God gave us a powerful gift when He created us—the gift of choice. We can choose to remain bitter, wallowing in resentment and self-pity, demanding that innocent family and friends take sides with our bitterness, or we can choose to be better by taking a higher and healthier road. A road that leads to freedom—one that doesn’t depend on what the offender does or doesn’t do. But it begins, as do all roads leading to blessings, with our making good choices. For anyone who has been wronged, (and who hasn’t?) the best choice is to forgive. A subject God also talks a lot about.
And why not?—forgiveness is His idea.
No hate can right a wrong that’s done.
No sword can slay the words that stung.
Forgiveness brings its own sweet peace
When vengeance falls in full release.
– Kitty Chappell
Note: For more poems, click on Kitty’s Poetry Link