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January 8

Monday, January 8th, 2024

Forgiveness…it goes both ways. By saying that I’m not saying forgiveness happens when I forgive someone and they either forgive me or reconciliation takes place. No. I’m going in another direction.

First, there is vertical forgiveness. This is the forgiveness we receive from God-initially and ongoing. Forgiveness for sin in the process of salvation, and then forgiveness on a daily basis as a result of the continual need for it.

But I think the hardest just might be horizontal forgiveness. Forgiving others. Being forgiven.  It is the former I am interested in today. Sometimes someone does something to us that rips our soul to pieces. Shakes us to the core.  There is betrayal. Anger. Bitterness. All which can develop as a result. Betrayal is real; anger and bitterness are killers.

Let me explain. Without details let’s just suffice it to say that several years ago the church I pastor was the victim of a crime. A substantial one. The leaders of the church chose forgiveness rather than prosecution and restitution. I was part of that leadership and even today would not change a thing. While there were some people who were extremely upset at our decision, the choice was made. We have never looked back wondering, “What if..?” Plus, God has been so phenomenally good to us there is no way we made the wrong decision.

There are those who were wanting vengeance. I chose forgiveness and with that freedom. I’m convinced that the person who carries around or holds onto bitterness and hatred has the problem. I believe that to refuse forgiveness or to hold a grudge makes that person a slave to the one their anger and bitterness is directed at. To put it succinctly, they own me. If they enter my thoughts and dreams, influence my attitude or I find myself tying up in knots at the mere mention of that person’s name or presence, they own me.  By God’s grace, I refuse to allow that. I belong to Him, the ONE who forgave on the cross, not that other person. He is the same ONE who said that if I have been forgiven I must forgive as well.

I laid to rest many years ago any hard feelings, ill will, vengeance, bitterness, or anger the enemy of my soul would want me to have. I refuse to play the devil’s game.

Today I lay to rest that perpetrator. The family asked if I would conduct the funeral. I, of course, said yes.