“If you would have dealt with the father I had, you wouldn’t visit him on his deathbed, either.”
“My boss said that I wasn’t needed any more. Thirty years I have sacrificed for that company, and this is what I get!”
“You have no idea what it’s like to have your spouse say that she’s never loved you when she moves on to someone else.”
In last week’s article, I wrote about revenge. Revenge takes unforgiveness one step further. Should we choose to forgive, revenge becomes irrelevant.
No one modeled forgiveness like Jesus. “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do,” he cried while hanging from the cross. His murderers didn’t ask for—or even care about–forgiveness. They made bets on his clothes, humiliated him, mocked him, tortured him and grotesquely disfigured him. Still, Jesus asked his Father to forgive them. I wonder if those words had any impact on their lives. How could it not?
For two weeks, Fred, the pastor at the church Dave and I attend here in Mexico, shared part of his journey bringing Christ to Mexico in the 1980’s. The congregation sat spellbound since, in Fred’s 25 years of pastoring here in Mazatlán, no one had heard this testimony, including the death threats and persecution he endured early on when attempting to introduce Jesus to some of the regions of Mexico.
Fred spoke of details of an almost-fatal car wreck he, his wife and three-month old daughter survived when hit by a drunk driver. Placed in a body cast, Fred and his family were flown to San Antonio, Texas, where Fred’s cast was removed and he was placed in traction for five months. His wife suffered broken bones and a collapsed lung, and his daughter, brain damage. The Christian doctor and his wife who made arrangements for the transportation and medical care later rented hospital beds for their home and moved into a trailer in their back yard so Fred and his family could receive the care they required after being released from the hospital.
At church today we saw a picture of Fred’s totaled vehicle with the junk yard owner standing beside it. After recovering, Fred was able to meet that owner who commented that “no one should have survived that kind of accident.” Fred shared how God allowed him to lead the man to Christ. Over the next several months, that man led his entire family to Jesus, and within a few years, some of the relatives formed a Christian gospel group and toured the United States singing their praises to God.
Fred eagerly told us how he had a chance to meet and forgive the driver who hit his vehicle head on. Many of his stories were about how he became best friends with those who persecuted him and how those men now have become Christians. Fred understands clichés like “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills somebody else.” He knows that true forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person; rather, it’s about setting ourselves free. It refuses to have to be in control by wishing the offender harm. Instead, it wishes the other person well.
In other words, forgiveness makes us more like Jesus than anything else we can do. Jesus’ own words (Luke 6:37) demonstrate who benefits the most: Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
If that isn’t setting ourselves free, I don’t know what is.