October 9, 2009
Forgiveness is Like Spinach
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
I've heard it said, "Forgiveness is like spinach. You might not like the taste, but it's good for you." I recently had the opportunity to "chew on" this spiritual wisdom, when someone close to me hurt my feelings.
We'd been friends for ten years, so her comment stunned me. Her words cut the silence of the room, "You and your personality are just too much for me today, I want you to leave my home immediately!" I thought she was joking but the look on her face and tension in her voice were clear, she wanted me to leave without delay.
I quickly gathered my things, said good-bye to the others in the room and left her home. I was hurt and embarrassed at what had just transpired. How could she have been so mean to me? What had I done to cause such hurtful words?
Over the next few days my hurt feelings turned to anger. Again and again her words rang in my ears. Soon unforgiveness crept in, spoiling my attitude. Knowing it would be easy to slip from an unforgiving attitude to sinful actions, I began searching God's Word for wisdom on this subject.
In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells of a servant forgiven a huge debt by his king. When the same servant has an opportunity to forgive someone a minor debt, he chooses to inflict punishment instead. The king finds out and is outraged:
"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:32-35, NIV)
These words pierced my heart as I thought of my bitter attitude toward my friend. As I meditated on these verses, I was reminded of times I had said or done hurtful things to others. At those times the forgiveness of God was extended to me. I could no longer allow myself to withhold forgiveness.
I invited my friend for coffee to ask her forgiveness for whatever I had done to cause her displeasure with me. Sadly, she was unwilling to explain or acknowledge her actions and we parted without any resolution to the situation.
It's been months since that meeting and there are times I have to remind myself to "eat my spinach" as I continue to forgive the one who hurt me. As I have struggled with this issue, God has shown me biblical steps to take as I forgive someone who has hurt me:
1. Recognize and confess my sins.
Psalm 41:4, "I said, 'O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.'" (NIV)
2. Rejoice in God's forgiveness for my sins.
Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (NIV)
3. Remember that forgiveness is a continual process.
Matthew 18:21-22a, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times." (NIV)
Has someone hurt your feelings or been unkind to you? Try God's steps for a forgiving spirit. I believe you'll experience Psalm 34:8 for yourself: "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."
Dear Lord, I acknowledge the unforgiving spirit I have had toward my friend. Help me forgive her as You forgive me. Put a guard on my mouth in order that my words would be pleasing to others and to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Hear Lysa TerKeurst's thoughts about "stabbing words" on our radio program today.
The Friends We Keep: A Woman's Quest for the Soul of Friendship by Sara Zacharias
How to Get Along with Difficult People by Florence Littauer
Begin a forgiveness page in your journal and write out verses dealing with this subject.
Read the entire passage in Matthew 18:21-35.
Ask the Lord to show you who you need to forgive.
Am I a peace-maker or a grudge-holder?
Am I willing to go to those I may have hurt or offended and ask for forgiveness?
Am I willing to forgive those who have hurt me?
Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (NIV)
Colossians 1:13-14, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (NIV)
© 2009 by Zoe Elmore. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Friday, 09 October 2009.