LESSONS IN FORGIVENESS -- Preface
I am writing this book after a lifetime of experience on both sides of the issue of forgiveness. I have learned to forgive out of many situations in my life where I needed to be forgiven. It is interesting that I was less forgiving when I was a person who needed forgiveness. I have learned, and am still learning, that a life lived in unforgiveness is a precious waste of what God wants to teach us and what He has in store for us.
At one point in my life, for a few years, I rebelled against God. In fact I was clearly in denial of the very existence of God for a time. I was doing many things that offended a number of people, in particular my family. I was living a life that was an embarrassment to them and many friends. I do not want to go into all the facts of a life of sin that has been forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ—that I no longer dwell on—but suffice it to say I was making a fool of myself in the face of my family who were in the Lord’s work as missionaries.
During that time I found many excuses to be the way I was. I held a grudge against people who had sinned against me. I was unable to forgive myself or my father for things that had happened before he was lost in a boating accident while I was away at school. I found myself drifting away from God and into addiction and other sins.
At my lowest point I realized that I had pretty much disgraced myself and my friends and no one really cared about me anymore. What I did not realize, at the time, was that my family and some friends were still praying for me. At that low point I did remember that childhood song I learned in church: “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so”. I was so alone in my unforgiveness yet realized that Jesus had sought me out and wanted me to return to Him so that He could clean me up and heal me.
It was many years after I gave my life back to the Lord that I found that He had indeed healed me. But I paid a price for my unforgiveness. I was finally able to forgive those who had sinned against me and begin the process of forgetting. That was a real catharsis in my life. I am glad now that the Lord brought me through that in so few years because I would not have wanted to continue to let those things fester for the rest of my life. But some people do.
Through the years I have been presented with many opportunities to forgive. Sometimes the situation was so severe that it took me some time to forgive and start the process of healing for myself, and eventually for others. I learned that a Christian needs to forgive other people even if they have not repented of their sins. That can be really hard if we let it be hard. But if we give our burdens over to the Lord, He will carry them and that frees us up to treat other people with love, compassion, and be in the right frame of mind and heart to set them up for reconciliation with Jesus Christ. That does not mean we tolerate their sin. We simply forgive them for what they have done to us, whether perceived or real, and move on to looking for ways to redeem them. We can then present to them the “truth in love” even when we have to rebuke them.
I am hoping that this study in forgiveness will give you many examples of how the Lord can work this issue out in your life. The research I did for this book has helped me with a number of pressing issues of forgiveness in my life.
In His hands,
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