This was progress. Ten minutes earlier, she almost exploded at the mere suggestion of forgiving the person. But still, she had not made a decision. She seemed to see this as a choice. A possibility. A maybe.
“You don’t realize what this person did to my life,” she told me. “You wouldn’t forgive this person,” she added.
“Yes, I would,” I told her. Then I explained how I forgave someone whose heinous crime toward me changed my life forever.
Unforgivable acts, or are they? It makes us think we can sit around and think – sometimes for years – about forgiving people. Maybe we should. Maybe we shouldn’t. We think we can. We don’t. We won’t. We think about it. We say we can’t.
But can’t we?
“I had to ask God to give me the forgiveness to forgive this person,” I told the woman after I explained a little of how very much was stolen from my life because of the crime.
“It’s our responsibility to forgive,” I explained. “This is what we’re called to do when we follow Jesus. To forgive. Do you remember what you said earlier? Do you remember the scripture from when Jesus hung on the cross?”
She had quoted the scripture maybe a half hour or so earlier when I was preaching. She even interrupted me to tell me the scripture.
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:34 KJV)
She hadn’t considered her own situation when she quoted the scripture. When she thought of the scripture in relation to her own situation, and to perhaps for how very long she has held on to refusing to forgive the person, God must have reached her heart. I saw it in her reaction. She seemed taken aback.
But not enough to say more than this. She would think about it.
“Remember the Lord’s prayer,” I reminded her. “We ask God to forgive us as we forgive others.”
But still. Isn’t it something how we can say we believe in Jesus, read our Bibles, go to church, say our prayers, and toss scriptures around, until they hit home. Until we have to get past the thinking. Then it’s altogether different, isn’t it?
Because thinking about forgiving isn’t the same thing as forgiving. Yet countless times I have heard people tell me they won’t forgive, they can’t forgive, or they will consider forgiving. As though it’s really up to us to decide if we should, when we should, if we can, if we feel like we want to. The truth is, it is up to us. It’s our choice. It’s our decision. And it’s our sin, our disobedience, our rebellion, when we choose not to do something God tell us to do.
“I knew a man who went to the home of the young man who killed his son in a car accident,” I told the woman. “He went to the young man’s home to tell him that he had forgiven him for killing his son. I believe if I remember correctly that God used that to lead the young man, and maybe his family, to Christ.”
How did the whole conversation begin anyway? I asked the woman if she had considered reaching out to the young man. I thought perhaps God might use her to help him find Jesus Christ. That is when I stumbled upon the pain and anger inside her heart. I had assumed she had forgiven.
She had not. She is thinking about it.
How about you? Are you ready to stop thinking about it?
Are you ready to forgive?