It’s Time to Finally Forgive (Mark 11:25)
By: Anne Peterson
Today’s Bible Verse: And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you for your offenses. - Mark 11:25
I didn’t understand my attitude. It was much bigger than everything right then. It kind of felt like I had shut the door on a closet overloaded with stuff. I needed to clean out my closet. The closet of my stored emotions. It was evident that I needed to forgive, but I didn’t even know where to start.
Everyone in life should have a friend like my friend Bonnie. I explained to her my feelings and my inability to put my finger on exactly what was making me upset. Her answer was typical.
“Have you asked God?”
Eventually, with my friendship with Bonnie, I learned there were things I needed to do before I asked her questions. And one of those things was pray.
So, I prayed, and I felt led to write down anyone toward whom I felt anger. I sat there for a while, and I wish I could tell you one or two names were written on my paper. It was more like eight names.
The offenses weren’t large ones, but it was clear that I had chosen resentment instead of forgiveness. And to keep those resentments fresh, I stored them in Ziplock bags. I’d take out the offenses and go over and over them in my mind, feeling the hurts as if they just happened. I’m not proud about this.
It was good to finally deal with it. It didn’t feel good, but I knew it was what God wanted me to do. He tells us to be “kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another as Christ forgave us” (Ephesians 4:32). Roots of bitterness are hard to pull out.
God also tells us to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from us, along with malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Yes, I knew I needed to forgive and to put away my bitterness. But my pride wanted me to keep holding onto it.
Tightly, I might add.
Sometimes, the Holy Spirit gently takes us to Calvary reminding us how Jesus forgave us totally. And he asks us to forgive just as he did.
Forgiveness is difficult when all we think about is how we felt. Peter asked Jesus, how many times he needed to forgive his brother and he felt he was being generous when he asked if it was seven times. Jesus said seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).
Repeated offenses are hard. But forgiving others as Christ forgave us is what Jesus pointed out. Whenever I struggle with forgiveness, it helps to remember Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34).
Satan tries to convince us that people who hurt us do it deliberately. But that doesn’t matter. We’re told to even love our enemies (Luke 6:27).
It helps me to remember that forgiveness is not possible apart from God. I have to pray when I need to forgive someone. God enables us to do the things he wants us to do.
A speaker once said, “If you’re not sure if you’ve forgiven someone, imagine them walking down the street towards you. What would you do? Would you cross over to the other side?” I’ve never forgotten that illustration.
Holding onto bitterness will stunt our spiritual growth. Paul tells us God started a work in us the moment we accepted Jesus and that work will be brought to completion (Philippians 1:6). When we follow God’s Word, we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit.
When I hold onto things, I can almost hear God saying:
Open Your Hand
What is that you are holding in your hand,
In your fist that is closed, ever tight?
What is that you are purposely keeping from me,
for you feel that you have the right?
Don’t you know as you grow in your walk with me,
I can see even things that you hide?
Oh, if you only knew what’s in store for you,
you would open your hand so wide. - Anne Peterson
Anne Peterson is a poet, speaker, published author of 16 books, including her latest book, Always There:Finding God's Comfort Through Loss. Anne’s first memoir is: Broken:A story of Abuse, Survival and Hope. She has published children’s books and poetry books, such as Droplets: Poetry for Those in Grief, and He Whispers: Poetic talks with God. Anne is also a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com. Anne’s poetry has been sold in gift stores since 1996. Check out Anne’s website at www.annepeterson.com or connect with her on Facebook.
Do you love podcasts? In The Bible Never Said That, we unpack some of the most popular "spiritual statements" that have made their way into popular culture and the church, even though they are not theologically sound. Together, we'll hold them up to the Bible to see what God's Word really has to say to us.