Forgiveness for Bitter Days

Max Lucado

You know who I think this guy is? A grace rejecter. He never accepts the grace of the king. He leaves the throne room with a sly smirk, as one who dodged a bullet, found a loophole, worked the system, pulled a fast one. He talked his way out of a jam. He bears the mark of the unforgiven — he refuses to forgive.

When the king hears about the servant's stingy heart, he blows his crown. He goes cyclonic: "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compas­sion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?" And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses (Matthew 18:32-35).

The curtain falls on Act 2, and we are left to ponder the principles of the story. The big one comes quickly. The grace-given give grace. Forgiven people forgive people. The mercy-marinated drip mercy. "God is kind to you so you will change your hearts and lives" (Romans 2:4).

We are not like the unchanged wife. Before her conversion to Christ, she end­lessly nagged, picked on and berated her husband. When she became a Christian, nothing changed. She kept nagging. Finally he told her, "I don't mind that you were born again. I just wish you hadn't been born again as yourself."

One questions if the wife was born again to start with. Apple trees bear apples, wheat stalks produce wheat and forgiven people forgive people. Grace is the natural outgrowth of grace.

The forgiven who won't forgive can expect a sad fate — a life full of many bad and bitter days. The "master...delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him" (Matthew 18:34).

Hoard hurts in your heart and expects the joy level of a Siberian death camp. A friend shared with me the fate of a hoard­ing grandmother. Like the Collyer brothers, she refused to part with anything. Her fam­ily witnessed two terrible consequences: she lost sleep and treasures. She couldn't rest because junk covered her bed. She lost treasures because they were obscured by mountains of trash. Jewelry, photographs, favorite books — all were hidden.

No rest. No treasures. Squirrel away your hurts and expect the same.

Or clean your house and give the day a fresh chance! "But, Max, the hurt is so deep."

I know. They took much. Your inno­cence, your youth, your retirement. But why let them keep taking from you? Haven't they stolen enough? Refusing to forgive keeps them loitering, taking still.

"But, Max, what they did was so bad."

You bet it was. Forgiveness does not mean approval. You aren't endorsing misbehavior. You are entrusting your offender to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23).

"But, Max, I've been so angry for so long."

And forgiveness won't come overnight. But you can take baby steps in the direction of grace. Forgive in phases. Quit cursing the perpetrator's name. Start praying for him. Try to understand her situation.

Let Antwone Fisher inspire you. He had ample reason to live with a cluttered heart. For the first 33 years of his life, he knew neither of his parents. His father had died before Antwone was born. And his moth­er, for reasons that he longed to know, abandoned him as a boy. He grew up as a foster child in Cleveland, abused, neglect­ed and desperate to find a single member of his family.

Equipped with the name of his father and a Cleveland phone book, he began calling people of the same last name. His life changed the day an aunt answered the phone. He told her his date of birth and his father's identity. He described the difficult turns his life had taken: being kicked out by his foster mom, serving a stint in the Navy, now holding his own as a security guard in Los Angeles.

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