But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up his garments among themselves.
The root cause of hate, I believe, is the lack of forgiveness. We must forgive. If we are unable to forgive, the hateful feelings will destroy us.
Not forgiving separated me from God. How could I feel forgiven by God if I was unwilling to extend that same forgiveness to someone else? Even if I said in my heart, “I forgive my ex-husband,” my lack of forgiveness would re-emerge later when something triggered the return of painful memories. I couldn’t get forgiveness to stick. I soon realized, I had to commit to the process of forgiveness—a lifestyle, a mindset, a choice. Every time I started to become bitter, I had to go through the process of forgiveness all over again. In my case, forgiveness took me a long, long time.
Without the Holy Spirit’s help, I would not have been able to forgive my ex-husband. Fortunately, after a period of time, I realized my love for God was greater than my bitterness and regret over mistakes I had made in the marriage—strong enough to overcome my intense sadness and depression. Through God’s love and power, I was at last able to forgive completely.
Our model for forgiveness is Jesus Christ. Jesus forgave us as he hung naked on a cross. We don’t deserve his forgiveness or grace. He simply loved us that much. We deserve to die and pay the price for all the mistakes and sins we have committed, but instead, Jesus died and paid the price for us.
There’s nothing more powerful than seeing someone who has been hurt exercise his will to forgive. If we choose to hate, the devil will be our master. If we choose to follow the example that Jesus set for us, we will love, and he will be our master. To love in these circumstances is not a feeling. It’s a choice.
From Seventh Dimension – The Door, a Young Adult Christian Fantasy:
“I’m nothing more than a worm, like that worm lying on the sidewalk that Judd wanted to crush. There’s nothing good inside me except that which was put there by the king. Just as I rescued that worm from his tormenter, my king will rescue me, too, and crush your head [the serpent]. The king promised, if you forgive others, your heavenly father will also forgive you. I am forgiven.”
—Shale Snyder, chapter thirty-five
More from Seventh Dimension – The Door, a Young Adult Christian Fantasy:
Magical stirrings from deep within bubbled forth and overflowed. Freedom beckoned me.
I countered their lies, “He’ll always live in my heart. You can’t hurt me anymore”...suddenly, the demons began to shrink—smaller and smaller they became, right before my eyes. As the underlings shrunk, they underwent a metamorphosis. They shrank smaller and smaller and we grew larger and larger. Soon the underlings had shape shifted into nothing more than puny snakes. Even though they hissed, their voices became as a little mouse’s before a taunting cat.
—Shale Snyder, chapter thirty-five
Forgiveness is never easy. With great forgiveness comes great grace. Great grace is never cheap. Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price to forgive us by shedding his blood on the cross. We can’t give him back his life—Christ willingly allowed himself to be crucified so that he could give us eternal life. It was a choice he made. It’s a choice we must make—the choice to forgive.
Sometimes it requires a recommitment—as in my case, when I recommitted my life to Jesus Christ. I knew I needed more faith to forgive. I was running on an empty gas tank, and the only way to fill it up was to allow God’s Spirit to work in my heart. I had to make a conscious choice to forgive my ex-husband. I had to ask God to help me do it. I couldn’t do it on my own. I couldn’t conjure up enough goodness within me to do it without his help.
God is gracious and loving. We are forgiven by God, and we must extend that forgiveness to others if we want to be like Jesus. If forgiveness was cheap, it would not have cost Jesus his life. But our forgiveness couldn’t be bought with anything less.
We must lay down our rights, lay down our hurts, and lay down our desires to retaliate. We might have to go back to God and ask for his help many, many times to enable a lifetime of living in forgiveness. And each time we recognize our need for him, he gives us everything we need to abide in him.