Forgiveness is hard. I bet you know someone who wears bitterness towards someone like an additional layer of tight-fitting invisible clothing. It is unseen until resentful words are spoken or the unforgiving person makes the kind of facial expression those feelings show.
There are others who hold onto their resentments as a way to prop themselves up, to anchor themselves on the hill of self-righteousness, to shield themselves from self-examination or from processing the origin of those feelings. Such persons profess to be devout Christians and thank God in prayer for forgiving them of their sins; thus, insuring them eternal life. Yet, such persons seem oblivious to what Jesus would have them do.
These generalizations belie the fact that all Christians are flawed like you and me. That most of us struggle every day to understand, to forgive others and ourselves, and to love as Christ loves everyone including the embittered and unforgiving in our world. Amidst those who are incapable of forgiveness, you and I see someone do a God thing, an unfathomable loving forgiving act that only a saint could perform.
As a collaborative divorce attorney, I witnessed such a moment I will never forget. Without using names or the exact details here is what happened. My client, the husband, had an addiction to secretly seek out sex partners while his wife was out of town on business. He spent thousands of dollars each year on prostitutes. He even brought the prostitutes to the marital residence to have sex with him on the bed in the couple’s master bedroom. After years of such behavior, the wife unexpectedly discovered what her husband had been doing behind her back. She was shocked and devastated by her husband’s betrayal and breach of trust. To others, this couple had it all together. They were successful and well-respected in their community and their church.
At our first collaborative divorce meeting with the couple and the attorneys, I was very apprehensive as to what my client’s wife would say to her husband. How could she even sit in the same room with him? How could she talk respectfully to him? You could’ve cut the tension in the room with a butter knife.
Then, the God thing happened. The wife looked into her husband’s eyes. She said,” Right now I am angry at you. I am bitter. I want to get revenge for what you have done to me. How could you have done this? Did it ever concern you of the horrible example you have set for our kids? However, I am going to treat you in the divorce as Jesus would. It will take time. I need space from you. I know you are ill. You have an addiction. Jesus would not treat someone who is sick with bitterness but with love and forgiveness. I pray that you seek professional help for your addiction. I have said my peace. Now, let’s get on with the divorce as best we can.”
The husband as well as myself and the other lawyer were wet-eyed. We had witnessed almost what could be described as a miracle. God’s forgiveness saves us from death. Our forgiveness of others and ourselves enables us to live and love more richly and deeply in our fallible frail lives. This God thing is part of the Easter message, isn’t it?
The power of the wife’s forgiveness coupled with her husband getting help resulted in an amicable and peaceable divorce. The parties have remained friends and great co-parents of the children for many years after this powerful exhibition of forgiveness.
God has spoken to us in Scripture about forgiveness.
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven but dwelling on it separates close friends.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Let us pray together.
Dear God, when I am living each day of the blessed life You have given me, I am sometimes overwhelmed by feelings of resentment toward another. These bitter feelings are as close to me as the clothes I wear. Resentment separates me from others who need my mindful, loving presence.
God, in Your mercy, please help me to give up my resentments and heal through your generous grace. In that way, may I love others more deeply and be more present to serve them in the glory of Your name.
Dear God, in prayer please silence the bitterness in me for a wrong that should have been forgiven long ago. Because You forgave Mankind for our sins, I pray You can show me the way to forgive others as well as myself for the wrongs I have done. Amen
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If you want to purchase for yourself or a friend a copy of Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love or Prayerful Passages: Asking God’s Help in Reconciliation, Separation or Divorce, please click here to go to Amazon.
Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur, and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love, go to the Bending Angel website.