Yesterday, we learned that abundant life yields forgiveness in us and through us. But forgiveness does not come easy. Forgiveness is tricky and sticky. It can elude us and intrude in our lives. If we don’t forgive, we are susceptible to a bitter root, which grows its tangling web around our hearts, souls, and even personalities.
I have had my own set of circumstances of forgiveness from time to time. The details are not important, nor are they as sad and dramatic as many people have to endure. I remember a day many years ago when I was driving on the Natchez Trace, enjoying the beauty all around me. I wanted to listen to music but could not find anything except a country preacher talking about forgiveness. I started to turn off the car radio, thinking to myself, “I don’t have anyone to forgive.” But then I stopped. Why? Because I felt a slight nudge in my spirit. Enough of a nudge to pray. “I don’t have anyone to forgive, do I, Lord?” And immediately the face of a friend popped in my head. Yes, this friend had hurt me. She had offended me and come against me. She had been disloyal. “But that was long ago. We are okay now,” I thought. But the more I listened to the country preacher the more I knew the truth. I had not forgiven her. Not really.
You see, the Bible calls us to be PEACEMAKERS. But I was being a PEACEKEEPER. There is a difference. I knew in my car that day that God was calling me away from just keeping the peace, and toward making peace in my own heart and in that situation.
A peacemaker does not shy back from dealing with a situation with honesty and clarity.
A peacemaker makes peace with others, which is a recognition that peace needs to be made. A peacemaker does not deny that there is a problem, a wrong, or a hurt.
A peacekeeper, on the other hand, just keeps whatever peace is there. A peacekeeper does not want to rock the boat, deal with the truth, or recognize the hurt. A peacekeeper never really changes a situation, just maybe makes it slightly more pleasant.
A peacemaker makes peace. And to make peace with something or someone, you have to deal with it. Now, in my situation, the details had long ceased to be important. And we had talked about it at the time. So, the hard work that still needed to be done was in my own heart. And to tell you the truth, once I began to process of making peace instead of just keeping peace, the old hurt resurfaced and began to hurt me all over again.
There is a great lesson in there. Don’t put if off, friends. If there is un-forgiveness in your heart, even a little bit, go ahead and make peace with it. Because the longer you put it off, the more it hurts when it resurfaces. And it will resurface.
So, in this particular journey, this is what I learned:
- Just because we love Jesus doesn’t mean that forgiveness is easy. It is hard work.
- We can never be more like Jesus than when we have to forgive, for what is Jesus if He is not forgiveness?
- You can’t hate someone you pray for. Even if you all you can manage is a “Lord, bless him or her,” start there. In time, the Holy Spirit will work in your life to such a degree you really and purely want peace and blessing for the other person. This will be the work of the Holy Spirit in us, not from us alone.
- Sometimes we feel that we can’t forgive someone else. The hurts are too raw, the details too overwhelming. In those cases, you must rely on this truth: You are right. You, on your own, cannot forgive. But Jesus, who is living in you, can. So just move on over and let him do it for you and through you. I promise He will, if you surrender it to Him.
Today, be a peacemaker not just a peacekeeper. I am praying for you!