Someone I thought was a good friend recently hurt me, and it knocked the wind out of me.
Look, I get that in the span of every friendship there are bound to be moments of disagreement or offence. And, I’m well acquainted with the fact that all humans are at the core messy and capable of inflicting pain on others – myself included.
Still, this felt different. It seemed to come out of nowhere and frankly, it shocked me as much as it hurt. It reminded me of incident between my son and his friend at the tender age of 5. The two little guys were playing nicely when all of a sudden it turned. As I passed the room where they played, I witnessed the other child punched my boy in the stomach. Of course, I stepped in and separated them but even after all these years I remember the look of shock on my son’s face. He had an expression of disbelief – as if the pain of the betrayal was more profound than the pain of the physical.
That’s exactly what I felt. Betrayed.
This young woman and I have known each other for a while. We met in a small group setting, and I’ve been blessed to watch her grow and begin to live out her God given purpose. She’s turning a painful past into a passion to help women and I’ve tried to support her in any way possible.
The hurt came from a demand to give her something that was rightfully mine. It was an unreasonable request and from a business perspective I was not obligated to oblige her request. From a friendship perspective, it was a low blow.
I was well within my rights to say no, and I had every right to be upset – and that was my initial reaction. But, then I remembered Luke 6:30 – “Give to everyone who asks you and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back (NIV).”
So, I had a choice. Demand my right to be right or, be obedient. Shoot. That’s not a fun place to be, my friends. To be completely transparent, I felt like I was being taken advantage of and I did not like it! It wasn’t just her demand, that troubled me. It was the fact that it appeared our friendship was based only on my ability to give her what she wanted, not on mutual give and take.
So, I did what I know to do. I listened to worship music. I read my Bible. Finally, I prayed, “Okay, God, I’ll do what you ask – even though it hurts.” My friends, it’s not about how we feel. Obedience does not require us to like what we’re being asked to do. It’s about bending the knee.
The demand was easier to deliver than I’d thought, but the pain of the betrayal floated around me like a storm cloud. I found myself needing to forgive over and over. But, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve taken this path before.
Forgiveness is not usually a once-and-done event. The act must often be repeated. God’s direction to pardon has nothing to do with whether it was deserved, and it did not matter that my heart still hurt. God’s command to us is to always the same – forgive as you are forgiven.
If I’m weighing the level of deserved forgiveness against what I merit, the hard truth is, the balance is stacked against me. I’ve been forgiven far too much to begrudge anyone else the gift of mercy.
Our example is the women in Luke 7:36 – 48. She’s described simply as a sinful woman. There are commentaries that say she’s the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1 – 11). Whether or not it’s her, we can see the remarkable depth of gratitude by her actions in this story. Against social protocol she enters a room full of men to find Jesus and expresses her gratitude by breaking a vial of expensive perfume over him and wiping his feet with her hair. There’s so much to this story, but in the context of forgiveness, I don’t know that we can paint a more vivid picture of thankfulness for absolution. The lesson becomes, “he who forgives much, loves much.” Yep, that pretty much describes me.
My mountain of sin was forgiven, so I will show mercy. Period.
What’s interesting is what happens when we choose forgiveness. The act of mercy frees us, my friends. When we forgive, we prevent the roots of bitterness from taking root and hardening our hearts. Forgiveness opens the door for God to work in the other person’s heart. When we relinquish our right to avenge our case we make room for God do that on our behalf.
So, I forgive – and continue to forgive this person. I choose to love her even though it’s hard. I pray for God’s blessing and grace in her life and ministry.
In the aftermath of an offence, forgiveness is not always the easy choice. It involves surrendering our rights and trusting that God is in the midst of the situation. It’s not easy and I don’t take this topic lightly. But, I promise there is blessing in obedience.
When we yield to what God asks, there is always gain for us. In the days following the indecent, and the struggle – and ultimate choice to forgive, I was blessed. First, a close friend went above and beyond to ensure she was at an event where I was speaking. Her love and support have always been evident, but this act came just hours after the betrayal. It was a balm for my heart.
She wasn’t the only one either. Some of my extended family showed up at the event too. It blessed me and comforted me to have their love and to be reminded that they are there for me.
Finally, someone I respected – but knew from a distance extended a hand of kindness, and support. Her words and encouragement lifted me and reminded me that what I do matters.
I choose to forgive because I was pardoned far more. Friends? Who has wronged you? I pray you’ll take steps today towards the beautiful blessing of forgiveness.