As we spoke, her question stopped me in my tracks.
Essentially, she was asking me how my Christian faith plays a part in helping me to forgive others.
My good friend, who was a non-believer, went on to lament about her struggle in forgiving someone who had tormented her for years.
It seemed impossible when forgiveness was seemingly undeserved. I understood her pain: Forgiving is never easy.
This also made me recall my journey of wrestling with unforgiveness.
Last year, I had two separate and unpleasant encounters with different members of God’s spiritual family.
There was an incongruity between their outward image of loving God and the lack of love in their friendships with me.
It was an arduous journey, but through it, God gave me a new heart and a fresh understanding of what it means to be a part of His family.
The most painful part was that both of them were professing Christians.
Yet, there was an incongruity between their outward image of loving God and the lack of love in their friendships with me.
How could they pretend to be so perfect?
Aside from disappointment, I couldn’t understand what I had done to deserve this as my conscience was clear.
If their names came up in conversations, my heart churned with resentment.
As I scrolled through Instagram and saw their posts, my mind burned with disgust as memories of what they had done would rush back. I thought:
God, shouldn’t they know we’re a spiritual family? I’m their sister-in-Christ. How could they have done that?
And why should they be so happy and successful after how much they’ve hurt me? This is so unfair.
Thankfully, God didn’t rush me, but gave me space and time to express my hurt and frustration. Then, He began to probe my heart.
As I was reading through the book of Samuel and got to 1 Samuel 24, I was puzzled by how David responded to Saul’s relentless hatred towards him.
Twice, David had the perfect opportunity to kill Saul. Twice, he spared Saul’s life.
On top of that, David continued addressing Saul as “my lord the king” and recognising Saul as “the Lord’s anointed”.
Even in Saul’s death, David honoured his life and mourned for him.
This all sounded… wrong.
For weeks, I reflected on this counter-cultural and counter-intuitive response from David.
During this time, a friend who knew nothing about either incident, also prayed for me to “release hatred and resentment from my heart”.
It was then I knew God had His finger on the unforgiveness in my heart.
God gently brought to mind times in the past when I had been the cause of hurt for peers in church.
Although never out of malicious intent, I knew I had unfairly hurt fellow brothers- and sisters-in-Christ with my actions or lack of action.
I wasn’t perfect as I had believed I was. God reminded me not to condemn me, but to reveal my own blindspots.
He also led me back to the story of creation in Genesis 1:26-27.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Imago Dei — “the image of God”. In the midst of my hurt, I had forgotten the truth.
This brother and sister of mine have intrinsic value because God’s fingerprint is on them, just as it is on me.
The blood that Christ shed on the cross covers them, just as much as it covers me.
God loves them. And I need God’s grace and forgiveness as much as they do.
I had to confess and repent of my pride, as I believed I was more righteous than them.
I also realised that I had been holding them to an especially high standard of demonstrating Christ’s love.
But I was humbly reminded that we are all sinners. Until Christ returns, we will never be perfect.
The driving force for loving my spiritual family never depended on them. And it was never about me, but God.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
It wasn’t an easy love — and Jesus knew that too.
In the context of John 13, Jesus knew that Judas was leaving soon to betray Him, while another disciple (Peter) was also going to deny Him
And yet, Jesus still chose to wash their feet (John 13:1-17).
Instead of expecting others to be perfect, let us persevere in loving one another.
After all, haven’t we all needed to receive forgiveness from a brother or sister?
The driving force for loving my spiritual family never depended on them.
When we leave strife between fellow brothers and sisters unaddressed, the insidious seed of unforgiveness consumes our whole being.
And from unforgiveness flows gossip and conflict, dividing our churches.
Too often, people leave the church on a sour note. Sometimes, they even leave the faith completely because of unresolved issues within the spiritual family.
But shouldn’t a family be patient with one another’s mistakes and shortcomings? Doesn’t a family help each other grow?
If we cannot even forgive those within our own house, how can we expect to go into the world and love others?
How can a divided family represent God’s reconciling love to the world?
The world is watching: What kind of kingdom will we reflect?
Forgiving one another doesn’t nullify the wrongs done.
This is not about disregarding or belittling hurts, but choosing grace and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 5:24).
Bring before God any resentment against your fellow brother and sister. Our Heavenly Father is patient and compassionate. And He wants to heal your heart.
In time, He will strengthen you to release forgiveness to your spiritual brothers and sisters — if you let Him. It may also heal the relationship to have an open, loving conversation with the other party.
By our own strength, we will never be able to forgive completely.
But God has been strengthening me to release complete forgiveness to this spiritual brother and sister.
He has also healed me more deeply than any human explanation of apology could.
- Is there a wound that you’ve been holding on to? Bring that before God and ask Him to heal you, and for the strength and grace to forgive.
- Is there someone you need to be reconciled with? What next steps is God asking you to take?
- What are some areas of your own life you need to work on?