Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Do you remember the last words of Jesus as He hung on the cross? “It is finished!” The most literal translation would be “paid in full.”
I will never forget paying off my very first car loan. After sending in my forty-eighth and final payment, I celebrated the fact that I finally owned my bright blue and ever-so-compact Chevrolet Vega – from bumper to bumper. There were those who said you couldn’t drive a Vega – you had to wear it. Others described the bright blue color as strangely “unique.” But to me, it was the most beautiful car in the world because it was mine.
Of course I quickly found other places to spend the once allocated car payment and went on with life – until the day I opened my mailbox to find the loan papers for my car. Stamped in big red letters across the document were the words, “Paid in full.” I danced a jig right there in my driveway, because I was finally free of that debt.
Part of forgiveness is releasing the person from the debt we think they owe us. Refusing to let go of the hurt and pain someone has caused in our lives will always rob us of our joy. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply let something go and cut our losses instead of allowing the weight of an unpaid debt to deplete our mental and emotional energy. In other words, we can forgive the debt and free ourselves – a lesson I am continually learning to apply in my life.
Dan and I decided it was time to sell one of our old junky cars. We had several from which to choose, but this particular car was ancient, ugly and needed a lot of work. In the right mechanical hands and with a whole lot of prayer, it might last a few more years.
A man who worked for the church where Dan pastored said he could fix the car and agreed to buy it. He and Dan worked out the terms. The man was to pay a certain amount each month until the car was paid for. No papers were signed because, after all, it was a business agreement between two ministers.
Some lessons are learned the hard way. Dan gave the man the car title and car keys. The man gave us nothing. Not one penny.
Dan talked with the man several times about making the payments he had agreed to make. He always responded with the promise that he would make a payment soon. “Soon” never came.
I was furious – not so much because of the money, although it would certainly have come in very handy – but because this man was taking advantage of my husband’s giving heart and ticking me off in the process.
I ranted and fumed for several days until Dan finally said, “Honey, I have decided to forgive the debt on that old car.” Well, I decided not to, and my anger grew.
The Lord and I wrestled with what I had come to call “the stolen car” for days. I seriously doubt that the man that now had our car gave it much thought, but my heart filled with bitterness toward him.
My joy was gone – and I wanted it back! I did not want to forgive this man. I certainly did not feel like forgiving him, but I realized that forgiveness always hinges on a choice. It is a choice to obey God and allow Him to balance the scales of justice in His own way and in His own timing. When we choose to forgive, we will be set free.
Father, please forgive me when I allow anger and bitterness to fill my heart because I refuse to forgive someone who has hurt me. Teach me how to lay down my rights and choose to forgive in the same way You have forgiven me.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Consider the following questions and record your answers in your journal.
- What are the rewards of forgiveness?
- What are the barriers to forgiveness in your heart?
- Are you willing to make the choice to forgive?
- Celebrate right now the power of forgiveness in your life.
More from the Girlfriends
It is sometimes hard to forgive people who are difficult to love. Mary’s book, Sandpaper People, offers 11 steps you can take to deal with, love and forgive the people who have hurt you and tend to rub you the wrong way. (Also available in CD)