THE HEALING NATURE OF FORGIVENESS
As the three of us struggled in that dark room in Zimbabwe, it seemed to me that there was another presence in the room. God was there telling me to gently urge this dear couple to let go of their hostile spirit and let Him cleanse their hearts. He would give them a kind, tender, forgiving spirit. Jesus would say:
“I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
Matthew 5:44, NKJV
I suggested that they needed to pray for such a change of heart, and after a long silence, the man said in a trembling voice, “I am ready.” His wife said, “So am I.”
The three of us knelt by the bed in that quiet room. I have never heard such moving prayers. We stood up and embraced each other with tears of supernatural joy streaming down our cheeks.
The next day the man and his wife stood before the entire gathering. He told the group that he and his wife were leaving a heavy burden behind and looking forward to a new life in the future. I knew what he meant.
God’s children have full access to the limitless supply of the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Isn’t it odd, therefore, that we should ever choose hatred, resentment, or anger, not over the great tragedies of life, but, more often over the small grievances of daily living?
Inevitably, my response is involved in a deed that needs my forgiveness. This response forces me into the need for personal examination. If there is anger, hatred, the desire for revenge, or physical attack, then I must deal with me before I can deal with the offense. I can get so preoccupied with the offense, I fail to recognize my own need. Jesus once advised a multitude:
“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? . . . Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:3, 5, NKJV
To forgive and be forgiven go hand in hand. Therefore, when someone trespasses against us, we usually must deal with our own sins as well as with the other person.
But people want to know when it is acceptable not to forgive. We are confronted on all sides with stories of physical abuse, sexual abuse, rape, unfaithfulness, stealing, suffering, swindling. The list is long. Is no one entitled to withhold forgiveness? Why should we forgive such treatment? The answer is clear.
The Ugandan couple experienced a miraculous cure when they were released from anger and bitterness. Forgiveness freed them from the non-productive and destructive emotions which chained them and enslaved them to the object of their anger. They found that forgiveness was the foundation of good mental health.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33, NKJV