O God, if only you would destroy the wicked! Get out of my life, you murderers! They blaspheme you; your enemies misuse your name. O LORD, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you? Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you? Yes, I hate them with total hatred, for your enemies are my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. ~ Psalm 139:19-24
This is a tough one. Have you ever been hurt by another person before? Betrayed, slandered, mistreated, abused, or violated? Have you ever witnessed injustice, cruelty or prejudice? Have you ever been a victim of circumstance or persecution? Of course you have, you’re human! We all have. We live in a fallen world, overcome by sin, and we’ve all experienced, and caused, by the way, pain.
As Christians we are admonished to forgive. Forgive, forgive, forgive! Jesus said we are to forgive a person who hurts us seventy times seven, meaning as often as we are hurt or offended. We are to forgive if we want to be forgiven.
Forgiveness isn’t natural. It isn’t what we want. What we want is payback, vengeance, justice. We are humans, and we have human emotions and desires. When I read the above verses, I love the raw honesty of the Psalmist. He is being real with his emotions, strong and passionate as they are, as he cries out to God for intervention.
No, forgiveness isn’t natural. But it is necessary. It is necessary for our own sakes. When we hold onto the offenses that are done to us, we become steeped in anger, and that anger turns to bitterness, animosity, hostility and hate. And those emotions are destructive, not to the person who hurt or offended us, but to ourselves.
If we choose to forgive our enemies, we free ourselves from an ugly and dark self-imposed prison and we free God to act on our behalf. He will vindicate us. God is the judge, and He’s got our backs! It says in Romans 12:19, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Offering forgiveness doesn’t simply mean the offender is getting off without penalty though. Simply put, actions have consequences. One way or another. Forgiveness can be instantaneous, but I think (in my case anyway) that’s more the exception than the rule. We have very real and strong emotions that we experience when we are harmed. That’s natural. And we often have to allow ourselves to experience them before we are able to choose to let go, heal and forgive.
When we make that choice, it doesn’t make necessarily make all of our feelings go away, but rather it allows God to come in and begin to do His work in helping us to heal. His healing further allows us to let go and move forward. It is then that we are able to follow His lead and live the life He desires for us to have.
And it is only after that, after we’ve allowed God to show us the dark places in our hearts and heal us, that we are truly able to follow His path, ascend His hill and stand in His holy place.
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. ~ Psalm 24:3-5