Why Can’t I Forgive You?
By Linda Nelson
One Sunday after service, I was waiting in line to register for an upcoming event when my sister walked up. We started talking about something when out of my peripheral vision I saw a hand waving and then I heard a Snap! Snap! I turned my full attention to the lady behind the counter, snapping her fingers at me to get my attention. I was immediately put off as everything around me became irrelevant and my mind went to the dark place. How dare she treat me that way I thought as I turned to my sister and said loud enough for her to hear, Did she just snap her fingers at me? The woman looked slightly uncomfortable as I completed my transaction without further incident and walked away. But although I left the counter, I didn’t leave the incident behind.
The following week, I again saw the snapper, and it soon became clear that she didn’t remember the incident and probably didn’t remember me as she greeted me excitedly with a big hello and a warm handshake. But I wasn’t ready to let it go as I immediately stiffened and gave a curt response. For 15 minutes after that second meeting, every interaction I had was colored by this one. I was offended!
I wanted to share this story with you, not because it was such a major deal- it wasn’t- but because we all have experienced some kind of insult in our lives. You can’t get through life without them. It’s what holding on to those insults do to us that matter. I wonder if someone I came across during the wake of my right to be right could have needed a smile or word of encouragement from me that day and I was unable to give it because I was too caught up in me.
Holding on to an offense can hinder our fellowship with one another, interrupt our walk with God, and even give place for sickness and disease to flourish in our bodies. Being offended has caused people to walk away from the church, cut ties with family members and leave marriages.
In Matthew 24:10, Jesus talks about the sign of the times and the issues that will plague us. They include wars and famines and deception, and offense- “And then many will be offended, betray one another and hate one another.”
But God wants our whole hearts, and if they are filled with resentment and anger then what is left for Him?
This is how the world will distinguish us from everyone else- By the love we have, one for another (John 13:35). I didn’t hate that person who snapped her fingers at me. But at that moment, I surely didn’t love her either. But love ain’t always pretty. Love is not the stuff we see on television where we remain in a state of bliss until the sun burns out. Anyone who has ever been married or had kids knows this. Love is work and effort and sweat and sometimes tears. Love is burdensome and grace and not always a fluttery feeling. But love is also necessary especially for the church. We have to love and forgive in order to move forward in power. We have to forgive in order to represent our King.
But it’s not always easy to forgive. Sometimes offenses are real and much bigger than the one I experienced. Sometimes people have said or done horrible things that have forfeited their place in our lives. Even those things have to be released from our hearts. The offender doesn’t carry them and is probably not affected by it, but we are.
Cognitive Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf, has conducted scientific studies that prove that unforgiveness can actually have a detrimental physical effect on our bodies. Her studies reveal that our negative thoughts can trigger disease, hinder healing and cut off neuro pathways in our brains and cause those areas to begin to die.
There is a reason God tells us to forgive. Because He is a forgiving God and He wants us to strive to be more like Him every day.
I love Jesus so much because He is the God of example and not only the because I said so God. if He wanted to be He could and there is nothing we could do about it.
Jesus demonstrates the ultimate forgiveness as He suffered sheer brutality through no fault of His own. He took shame, lies, deception and betrayal for us. And then as He hung on that cross battered and bloody, He released those who offended Him- “Father forgive them. They have no idea what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
When we hold offenses, we are the captives. When we release the offender, we release the offense from our own hearts. When we let it go, the offense no longer has a hold on us. We may always remember it, but it no longer has power over us, and it’s only then that we can move forward.
Father, we love You and are called to Your purpose. Thank you that we can always come to you and ask for forgiveness. Thank you that you are a good God, a just God and a God who is slow to anger and quick to forgive. Help us to forgive one another. And Father give us wisdom to know what relationships we should have in our lives and those that we shouldn’t, but give us the strength to forgive them all and release them so that our entire hearts are open to You. In Jesus’ name- Amen
Walk it out!