Have you ever had trouble forgiving someone? I recently walked by a person who I felt had wronged me in the past and even though I thought I had forgiven them, when I saw them my gut reaction was to avoid any contact with them. When I avoided them I realized that I was still harboring resentment towards them in my heart.
It had been years since this person had wronged me, and I had prayed many times desiring to forgive them. The next morning as I was praying over this, I believe the Lord showed me something about forgiveness.
We have a sort of “ledger” in our minds, with entries in it for each person we have ever known. Some entries are good, some are bad. Some entries are put there by direct experience, some from second-hand information. We keep an account of our interactions with every single person. We form opinions and make judgments about each person based upon the sum total of our mind’s ledger entries for them.
One reason gossip and speaking negatively about others is condemned in scripture is because the one who does this is spreading negative entries on people’s ledgers. It is causing people to form negative opinions, regardless of whether the information is true or not.
Why do we do have ledgers? I think it is related to the fact that we are made in the image of God (Gen.1:27). God keeps a perfect ledger on each one of us; He makes judgments about our behavior. We do the same thing. We record, and we judge. Our problem is that we are flawed in our judgment of others. And we have forfeited our right to judge others through our own sin.
Jesus teaches us that we are to forgive others: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15). God is merciful and forgiving, and He seeks the welfare of that those who have sinned against Him. He leads them to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
So what is the solution? How can we truly forgive others? First we must realize our inability to completely forgive on our own. Then we must give over to God complete control of our ledgers through prayer. We are in the process of being renovated, of being restored to the image of God (Col. 3:10). We must let God do the work of changing us from within to become like Jesus who cried from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Giving up control of our ledgers to God is not a “one and done”exercise; it’s something that has to be done whenever we see signs of resentment in us. And when we give God control, and He starts to blot out negative entries in our ledgers, we experience a load being lifted from us. Forgiveness brings freedom!
Is there anyone you are avoiding?