Struggling to Forgive

There is an old and familiar song we often sing during the invitation time at the end of the worship service called “I Surrender All”. Let’s think about that. Let’s think about what it means to “surrender all” for a moment. Actually, it’s very simple. All……means all. When we surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ, we surrendered everything to Him and as it pertains to the matter of forgiveness, it includes surrendering our desire to get even with those who have hurt us and done us wrong in some way. And more often than not,  it’s a battle!!! If you have ever found it difficult to forgive someone for hurting you or for commiting an unprovoked offense against you, you’re not alone. As guys, forgiveness goes against our nature. Sometimes that fight or flight instinct kicks in and when someone hurts us, we want to hit back. We want to settle the score.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve struggled with this many times and during one particular moment not long ago, I prayed and asked God to help me forgive some individuals who had attacked me personally without any provocation whatsoever. It was a sincere prayer. I genuinely wanted to let go of the urge I felt to get even. You see, that is not something any  Christian should ever want to carry around on his or her shoulders. When we’re unwilling to forgive, bitterness and feelings of resentment and anger will build up on the inside until we reach the point that we are no longer effective at doing the work God has called us to do.  And Satan would like nothing better than for us to be deterred from doing God’s work.

The Apostle Paul wrote in the 5th chapter of Ephesians: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. That was a summation of these words written in the 4th chapter:  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. So we need to make it our desire to imitate Jesus Christ and forgive others as He forgave us. But so often, forgiveness is easier to talk about than it is to put into practice. So I prayed, and sometimes my prayers can be gritty. I said to God, “Lord, it’s so hard to forgive when it feels like you’re being spit on for no reason……..” At that moment, I had to stop and remember who I was talking to.

I was speaking figuratively of course. I had not actually been spat on. But our Lord and Savior knows what that feels like……. in the most literal sense. Matthew’s Gospel describes the treatment Jesus received, first at the hands of the Sanhedrin after His arrest in the garden of Gethsamane, and then at the hands of Roman soldiers. In the accounts in Matthew 26 and 27, the Bible says both groups of men mocked Him and spat on Him and struck Him in the face. And how did Jesus respond?  Luke’s Gospel tells us in the 23rd chapter that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Jesus did not call down fire from Heaven to consume them. He prayed for them.

Being that He’s the Son of God, was it easy for Jesus to forgive after being spit on, mocked, beaten, flogged, prior to the being crucified? It might be tempting for us to think so, but there was nothing about the crucifixion, or anything leading up to it, that was easy as we understand easy. Jesus knows how it feels to be treated unjustly for no reason, to be hated and treated with contempt without provocation.  He knows what it’s like to be spit on. When it happens to us, when we’re hated and treated with contempt for no reason, He knows exactly how it feels. But we also know how He responded. So that’s something to keep in mind next time we find ourselves struggling to forgive.