Monday, January 25, 2010

Forgiveness, Bitterness, and Holding Grudges

In the last few years of my life, I have learned some very hard lessons about forgiveness, bitterness, and holding grudges. I have been on both ends--the one who needed forgiveness, and the one who had to extend forgiveness.

I used to be the world's worst person at holding a grudge. If someone did something to me,  I was bound and determined to make their life a nightmare until they said they were sorry. Even after they would apologize, I still would treat them unkindly--simply because they had done something to me and I wanted to continue to make them pay.

It wasn't until God brought to light for me Ephesians 4: 31-32 that I truly began to understand what forgiveness, bitterness, and grudge holding were doing to me.

All bitterness, anger, and wrath, insult, and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.~ Ephesians 4:31-32 CHSB
This single Scripture began to open eyes to the importance of forgiveness when we feel we have been wronged. But as always, God did not stop there with me. He began to show me in another part of His Word how to handle when someone wrongs me.

If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won't listen, take one or two more with you so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn't pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and tax collector to you. ~ Matthew 18: 15-17 CHSB
One time in my life, I had this lady who was going around telling people these awful lies about me. I felt horrible because of the rumors she was spreading about me and just distraught on how to deal with it. This was a lady who had a problem with backbiting and getting things stirred up. She was really bad at repeating things she had heard about people without confronting them with the information she had received.

I was very grateful that one of my close friends who had heard what was being said came straight to me to ask if it was true. We talked about it, prayed about how I was going to handle it, and then prayed for this woman to hear what I was going to say to her.

The following Sunday, after everyone had started filing out of church, I found her and pulled her aside. I let her know that I knew she had been spreading rumors about me and that I did not appreciate it. I gave her verses from the Bible about backbiting and gossiping (Proverbs 10:18, Proverbs 11:13, 1st Timothy 5:13, etc) and I told her it was time for her to get her tongue under control. I also made it a point to let her know that I forgave her and that I did not harbor any ill feelings toward her. She was speechless, because she had never had anyone confront her gossiping issues before. I left that conversation feeling totally liberated and God being glorified about how it was handled.

The funny thing is that Christians (myself included) have a hard time of seeing how God wants us to handle situations like this. When we are wronged, our flesh cries out for revenge, but God says "revenge is Mine" and believe me, He does get His revenge--but in HIS way, not ours.

If you find yourself going through a situation where you feel someone has wronged you, please, I urge you to take the appropriate steps to handle it. Don't talk about them behind their backs, don't believe things you hear about them--go to them and set the record straight! Your relationship with God will be so much deeper if you follow through with the way God planned for us to handle conflict.

Forgiveness is the KEY to unlock the love of God.

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