When was the last time someone did something to you that you didn’t like?
It wasn’t very pleasant, was it?
Maybe that person said something about you that wasn’t true. Now they have hurt your reputation with your boss. Or maybe people, who you thought were your friends, are not quite as friendly any more. And it is all because of the story that someone told about you. A story that was not true. Revenge or forgiveness?
Or perhaps the story they told about you was true. You thought it was a secret. There really was no reason in the world why anyone should have known about that secret thing you did. It was so long ago. But, somehow, someone found out what happened to you. And now the story is out. Everyone knows. And you’re sure that you are going to lose some of your friends.
When something like that happens … it hurts, doesn’t it?
More than likely it also makes you feel pretty angry?
And at a time like that — in the middle of your anger — you feel like striking back at that person that told that story. You feel like doing something to get even. You feel like saying something just as bad about them — or maybe even something worse if you could think of it. You want to hurt the person who hurt you. You want to get a little revenge for the wrong that has been done to you. or
Isn’t that the way you would feel?
I know that feeling.
Boy do I know that feeling. That feeling of being betrayed by someone you trusted. You told him or you told her something — gave them some information — in confidence. It might not truly have been a secret, but there was no reason for them to share it with anyone else. But they did. And before you know it, he or she has told someone else.
Suddenly you’re in trouble, for no reason.
Or you’ve missed out on something that by all rights should have been yours.
You feel cheated!
You feel robbed!
You feel hurt!
At a time like that, it is only natural that you feel like you want to strike back. It’s the most natural feeling in all the world. You want to do something to the person who hurt you, so that they will share your hurt.
It’s a natural feeling. It happens all over the world — every day.
It’s a natural feeling.
But, do you know what God says about times like that?
He says, “Don’t look for revenge. Forgive.”
Now there’s something that isn’t so easy.
For most of us, forgiving someone doesn’t come very easily. It’s hard to look someone in the eye — someone who has hurt you badly, or someone who has taken something very valuable from you — and say to that person, “That’s all right. I forgive you.”
Even if that person apologizes to you, and even if he or she very sincerely says, “I’m so sorry for what I did to you. It was wrong. And I’m sorry.” Even when that happens, it’s still not easy to forgive.
It’s hard to let go of the anger.
It’s hard to let go of the bad feelings you have for the person who has done the wrong against you.
You might even kind of hate that person. And it’s hard to let go of that.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be in prison for 15 years, for a crime that you did not commit. And then imagine that at the end of that time you are released, because someone investigated, and discovered that you were telling the truth all the time. You were innocent. You didn’t commit the crime. Another person did it. And now that person has finally confessed. Revenge or forgiveness?
Can you imagine the feeling you would have as you walk out the door of the prison? It would be great to be free, wouldn’t it? But how would you feel about that man who had let you sit in prison for fifteen long years.
I heard of that happening not long ago. This is a true story. It really happened. But what was amazing, was … the man who had been in prison all that time wasn’t even angry. He was just happy to be free. He forgave the other man for making him go to prison.
It doesn’t come easy for most of us. But we all need to give forgiveness once in awhile. And we all need forgiveness for ourselves — more often than maybe we would like to admit.
Think of the things you’ve done to people you know.
Think of the things you have said about other people.
Maybe you haven’t really done anything very terrible. Maybe what you said wasn’t all that bad. But I’m sure you’ve probably said something at some time in your life, that has hurt someone you know. Maybe it was a member of your family that was hurt by what you said.
Has that has bothered you?
Maybe you even said you were sorry, but your brother or your sister … perhaps your mother or father … or someone in your family … is still holding a grudge.
You want to be forgiven, but it’s not happening.
That’s hard to take, isn’t it?
We all want to be forgiven.
We all need to be forgiven.
We’ve done things against God, too. Some pretty serious things. Like keeping him out of our lives for no good reason except that we’re pretty selfish creatures, and we like to blunder along on our own.
You and I have done things that we know are wrong. We’ve done things that we know God doesn’t like at all.
But do you know what God says about that?
He says, “I’ll forgive you. All you have to do is come to me, and ask me to forgive you.”
God also says, “I’ll forgive you, no matter what you have done, because my son has paid the penalty for the worst possible thing you could ever do. Everything is covered.”
Can you imagine any of your friends actually saying that to you?
But that’s exactly what God says.
When Jesus died, he did it to pay for anything you could possibly do that would displease God. So God is ready to forgive you. Just like that! The bill marked, paid in full.
A clean page.
Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
But it’s true.
And that kind of forgiveness can be yours.