In recent weeks I posted a three part series at Crosswalk.com called God's Weight Loss Plan. The plan was to shed the weight of bitterness and pain brought on by a lack of forgiveness. Nothing makes my heart ache more than seeing the damage of unforgiving hearts. I see bitterness and anger ravage relationships, marriages, church unity and the body of Christ. I have been guilty. I am guilty today. Even as I write I am trusting God for the healing and strength to forgive a hurt from years past.
The iPod shuffle landed on a song by Melissa Greene today and the lyrics reminded me of how tough this forgiveness clause in our Christian contract can be to execute.
The song is "The Long Road to Forgiveness". The lyrics are written from a woman's point of view but the pronoun is irrelevant. This is a gender neutral issue.
She's pointed fingers and stood her ground and built a wall around her heart
She didn't want to lose a battle in a war she not start
She carried grudges long enough but they've only weighed her down
but the bridges burned are just lessons learned that she carries with her now
That little lyric bridge pretty much outlines every reaction of our flesh to being hurt. Step one is to blame someone else. Step two is to vow not to back down and give in because, after all, you were wronged. Step three is going into hiddenness and despair. Step four is being too proud to lose the battle. Step five is hanging onto the grudge even as it's weight crushes your spirit.
That is an ugly little sequence but it is a pattern I have repeated far too many times in my journey. I have heard it said that bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. I imagine the heart of Jesus being broken by our stubborn refusal to consider His forgiveness extended to us and consequently refusing to lean on His power to help us forgive. This passage in Paul's letter to the Church at Colossae powerfully makes the point.
Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossian 3, NLT)
I don't see a lot of wiggle room in that text. If I claim that Christ is all that matters and that He lives in me then I must forgive those who offend me. Can someone find a loophole here? Please?
The chorus of Melissa Greene's song reminds me how hard this road can be.
Down the long road to forgiveness there is fear at every turn
And she knows she needs to go the distance
Where her heart can finally rest, break these chains of bitterness
God will heal her brokenness
Down the long road to forgiveness
There is fear on that road if you take your eyes off of Christ. Your heart cries out in protest. What if they reject, scoff or take advantage of my forgiveness? Jesus reminds us gently that He understands.
When you break those chains and allow God to heal your heart the weight of the world will lift off of your soul. It is a long road to forgiveness. Sadly it is too often the road less taken. But it is the road that will make a difference in your journey with Jesus. I pray you will have the courage to start down that road today. Jesus will meet you there.