“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” — Jesus (Matthew 7:12)
Jesus sums up Scripture in what is known as the “Golden Rule“. Treat others the way that you yourself would want to be treated. Sounds easy enough. However the reality is that most people won’t treat you the way that they would want to be treated. When that happens it pretty much always results in hurts, disappointments, and pain, which inevitably leads to bitterness, anger, offense, and unforgiveness. In a broken world full of broken people, things just seem to get more broken. It’s sin begetting more sin.
One of the greatest areas of struggle in my own life these past couple years has been in the area of forgiveness. Couple years back I was completely blindsided and betrayed by the ones I loved and trusted most. I’ve never experienced such hurt in my life before. In a moment it felt like everything was taken away. Yet to make matters worse, I was completely abandoned by community. Not just any community, but a community of Christians, and not just any Christians, but a Christian community of leaders and pastors. Never would I have imagined that I would be treated the way I was by them. So when I needed others most, I was left alone to deal with what had just happened. Forgiving the ones who had hurt me would be tough already, but when I saw that they were welcomed and even celebrated by this community as if they did nothing wrong, I started to burn with anger.
I was outraged that instead of anyone trying to bring reconciliation, I was intentionally left out because it would just be too inconvenient and uncomfortable for everyone. Better to act like nothing happened than actually do anything about it. Wow. I was shocked. I was angry. I wanted justice. I wanted retribution.
Honestly I didn’t really want an apology though nor did I want reconciliation as much as I wanted revenge. I wanted the ones who hurt me to pay. For them to hurt just as much as I did, if not more. An eye for an eye wouldn’t have been enough. And frankly nothing would have been. The thing with anger is that it is never quenched or satisfied. It will consume you and everything in its path. Nothing could satisfy all the hurt, all the pain, and all the anger I was feeling except one thing… Death. Someone had to die, and that someone was me — a death to self.
What I’ve found is that to forgive is so against what I feel like doing. The same goes with dying to self. I’ll never actually want to feel like forgiving or dying! It’s just unnatural and abnormal for a human being. It’s unnatural to the world as well. The world says if you’ve been hurt, “get even, get over it, or just get out of the way” because only the strong survive. Yet the strongest thing you can do when you’ve been wronged is to actually forgive. Forgiveness will never be an emotion or a feeling, but a choice you make. So I had to choose to die to myself in order to forgive.
Pastor Tim Keller has said, “Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” It is costly because there is a debt that has to be paid. And it is suffering because the one who was indebted must pay. It is forgiveness because you no longer hold that debt against your debtors. It did cost me much, but it would have been costlier for me to not forgive at all. Therefore I had to journey with God and beloved friends and mentors to really process, grieve, and mourn all the hurt I experienced. Then I had to let it all go. Til this day no one has even acknowledged what they did, but God has blessed us with the ability to forgive even without ever receiving an apology. It is a choice I make in response to God’s forgiveness towards me more so than a reaction I make to an another’s apology. The truth with any hurt is that it will never be “forgive and forget”. As much as we try on our own, as human beings we will never be able to do so. Something we see, hear, or experience can and will trigger past hurts. Therefore it’s not “forgive and forget”, but “forgive and let go”. That means we must forgive and let go each and every time. Forgiveness is a choice that we make and commit to making over and over so that our hearts are free.
As we approach Good Friday and Easter, let us remember that it was only death that could satisfy the wrath of God. That it was only through the death of Jesus Christ we could experience the wonderful forgiveness and relationship with our Heavenly Father. The question that God has been asking me lately is, “Why live life, when you can live the resurrection life?” And how do we experience the resurrection life? By first dying… When I recently sat down with Dr. Rob Reimer, he said dying to self is no longer asking the question “what about me?” I can sit around all day long asking why I wasn’t treated better or why I was hurt and on and on, but it’s about no longer holding onto those things and trusting fully in God because it really isn’t about me. I can’t change anything by holding on anyhow. That’s why it’s about dying to myself so that I can live a life of resurrection with Jesus. There will be times and there has been times when I feel the anger well up and am tempted to be bitter, but right then and there I choose to die once again and forgive because nothing will satisfy like death. When only death satisfies, we are on our way to living the resurrection life.
This Good Friday, may you experience the costly sacrifice of His forgiveness that brings freedom to forgive.
This Easter, may you experience His resurrection power so that you too may live like Christ and with Christ.
Happy Easter from Pursuit NYC!