PASTOR'S PEN: When forgiving becomes a test of faith

Mara spotted her coming down the street. Mara’s first impulse was to walk quickly to the other side.

It was then she heard the voice of God in her mind, reminding her of the difficult battle she had fought over a period of many years to come to a point of forgiving this very person.

It hadn’t been easy. The wounds went very deep. The other person not only did not seek forgiveness but had been a continual source of anguish in Mara’s life and the life of Mara’s family for a long time.

Mara wanted very much to forgive, because she knew that’s what the Lord desired of her, but forgiveness did not come easily or quickly. There was pain, a lot of it, to deal with and work through, caused directly by this person who was now walking toward her on the same side of the street.

As Mara considered what to do, the emotions suddenly came flooding back. She remembered in a flash how this person had nearly destroyed her marriage and her family. Mara and her late husband had been reconciled by the grace of God but there had never been any kind of closure with this person.

In fact, some things had happened after her husband had died very suddenly that only poured salt on the wounds.

Still, Mara persevered in prayer. She understood the concept of Christian forgiveness. She didn’t want to be bitter toward this person. She wanted to forgive and she sought the Lord diligently about it.

It helped greatly knowing her husband had repented and they had been reconciled before he died. It also helped that the other person was not living nearby anymore. The pain and anger were very real, however, embedded deeply in Mara’s heart.

Mara was confronted by one of the great challenges facing us as followers of Jesus. We must forgive others because we ourselves have been forgiven so much and so often by our Savior.

The only bridge to a relationship with God the Father is the bridge of forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus the Son. Christian believers live in the reality of that forgiveness. We acknowledge our sins that have separated us from the God who made us in His image. We choose to repent of our sins, exhibiting true sorrow for the things we’ve done and said to offend God and to grieve God’s Spirit.

And then something wonderful happens. Because of our willingness to repent and seek forgiveness, God comes to reside inside of us. He transforms us from within, giving us a new heart and renewing our minds. Jesus becomes our Savior and our Lord. We become part of His sheepfold. We belong to Him and He belongs to us, now and forever.

We are free now to love God and love others as we love ourselves.

One often difficult aspect of living out the Christian faith in this fallen and broken world, though, is forgiving others. God desires this of us because He doesn’t want the cancer of bitterness to rip apart our souls. He asks us to trust Him, to follow the example of Jesus who asked the Father to forgive even those who crucified Him. It says of Jesus that when he was treated badly, He did not respond in kind, but instead “entrusted himself to the One who judges rightly” (I Peter 2:23).

Forgiving others frees us from bitterness and also shows genuine trust in God’s sovereignty. God will deal with every situation in His time.

Mara chose to listen to God’s voice that day and not go to the other side of the street. This person had moved back to the area recently and this was the first time Mara had seen her in more than a decade. Mara did not ignore her and even said hello to her. Yes, it took a lot of faith and humility to do what she believed the Lord was asking of her but Mara did it. The other person was not friendly but that’s OK.

Mara did what God asked of her. It was hard but she did it. Mara’s reward was a deep sense of peace and the realization that the sting of offense was being removed. She slept better that night than she had in a long time.