Forgiveness can be a tricky thing. The reason I believe it can be tricky is because oftentimes we are not consciously aware of the need to forgive.
When someone outright hurts or offends us it is much easier to recognize the need to forgive. This is because of two reasons. One of the reasons is because an offense directed at us becomes personal. The other reason is because it is obvious.
Yet there are other ways that unforgiveness can take root in our hearts that are less obvious. Sometimes the offense is not against us but against someone else. We may not even be personally involved but once we hear a story about some wrong, we can allow that to creep into our hearts. If it settles there it can turn into angry or bitter feelings.
Unforgiveness can also take root in our hearts when the reasons aren’t so obvious. It may not even make sense to be offended by something that isn’t outright obvious, however, it can happen. Just yesterday I saw this played out in my own life.
Several years ago there was a marriage breakup in my church. The husband divorced the wife. They had two children at the time. However, what made it all the more scandalous was that he left her for another woman who served in a leadership role in our church. One of the last things I had heard is that they went off to find a new church and got married.
Little did I know that the situation had gone into my heart and had taken root. Now fast-forward to today. The wife who was left is now happily remarried to a solid Christian man. She has been able to move past it all. In fact, she has completely forgiven her ex-husband and accepted his new wife. Apparently both sets of parents are actively involved in her two children’s lives.
Obviously this situation has absolutely nothing to do with me. But then yesterday I attended a parent football meeting and both sets of parents were there, as one of the children attends the same school as my youngest child.
I hadn’t seen him or the woman who used to be a leader in our church since the scandal happened. It has been several years. When I looked over and saw them, I bristled. Immediately these ugly thoughts began to creep up. They were very judgmental thoughts. I chose to ignore the couple and hoped they wouldn’t see me. I didn’t want to get caught in a conversation.
It wasn’t until I was reading my Bible this morning that I realized I needed to forgive. No, they did nothing to me. No, there is no obvious sin that warrants them needing my forgiveness. However I recognized that angry, bitter feelings had settled into my heart and I had to let it go.
Don’t always assume that the need to forgive is so obvious. Take time to inventory your own heart and consider other circumstances that may require your forgiveness.