As it turns out, we really don’t have to forgive everyone.
I have knelt at an altar, placing the names of people at His feet before. I have felt anger and betrayal, and if I told you each story, I’m willing to bet you would agree that I’m justified in feeling wronged in at least a few of the situations.
But, I have had to remind myself of something very important: There have been people kneeling at literal and figurative altars placing ME at the feet of Jesus before. I’ve wronged people. Sometimes I had the best of intentions, but unfortunately did something to hurt another person.
And other times? I just got it wrong. No, let me use the real word – I sinned. And therefore sent someone directly to an altar trying to forgive me, or sadly, directly in the opposite direction – where bitterness increases and peace is elusive. That place where we go to not lay people at the feet of Jesus, asking God to give us the ability to forgive them, but instead where we justify our feelings of betrayal and anger. That place where we dwell in a heap of self-destructive self-righteousness.
And something else I have had to remind myself of is that God forgives us without fail, repeatedly, and with arms wide open. We are ALL sinners saved by amazing grace. Who are we to keep forgiveness from someone else?
We put others on a mental list entitled, “Not worthy of forgiveness,” while we couldn’t imagine our own names being on it. Do we truly think we are any more worthy of forgiveness than others? I mean, think about it…every sin has the same root: we think our way of doing things or our way of thinking is better than God’s way. The sins themselves have different degrees of how they shake out, how many people are affected, and how the world categorizes them. But, the root? All the same.
So what I am saying is that even the people we would least like to forgive? We have done things equally as ‘unforgivable.’ We cannot say that they don’t deserve our forgiveness if we want to speak the truth. That leaves us with the only option left: we have to forgive them.
Wait! We don’t have to. On our own, anyway. We can’t! However, we have a God that upon being asked, will replace our feelings of unforgiveness with His peace that passes understanding. I’ve experienced it. It is the most free and liberated feeling. It can only be from God. It is beyond-words-wonderful.
WE don’t have to forgive everyone, because in our ‘humanness’, WE can’t. However, with God by our side, we, plus God, can! We can forgive the worst of offenses with the power of God.
Forgiving others in our own strength? Good luck. And thank God we don’t have to. However, going boldly to the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16) and asking in expectancy (Matthew 7:7-8 ) for Him to help us forgive others? That is doable. And right. And necessary in order for us to live the life God planned for us. (Jeremiah 29:11)
So, let’s throw away our list of ‘unforgivable’ people, get on our knees prayerfully, and get up feeling lighter than we have ever felt before. And know that most likely, we will be on our knees again. However, if we ask Him to be, God will be there WITH us, imparting HIS power to give us the ability to forgive others.
As it turns out, WE really don’t have to forgive everyone.