It is amazing that believers, Christians, who are the greatest beneficiaries of grace and forgiveness, are the greatest misers in the dispensation of the currency of forgiveness. For many of us, giving out an iota of forgiveness is like pulling a hair strand from our noses – very difficult!
Jonah was a prophet sent to the city of Nineveh by the Lord to preach against it. The aim of his mission was that simple: preach against the city of Nineveh. God neither indicated nor came to any agreement with Jonah as to what will happen to the city after Jonah’s preaching. Jonah decided to jump ship, literally. Jonah ended up in the belly of a fish, from where he prayed to God. God forgave him, and gave him a second chance, and “the word of God came to Jonah a second time”. Jonah obeyed this time, and went to preach against the city of Nineveh, as God had instructed.
The story of Jonah would have ended on a positive note, especially when the Ninevites, from the king to the lowest person in the land (including the beasts, who were also asked to fast!), turned from their wicked ways and gained the same gift of forgiveness that Jonah has graciously benefited from. But Jonah spoiled the script’s ending at this stage: he suffered a terrible bout of unforgiveness. He was mad that God had forgiven the Ninevites, and gave his expectation that God will forgive as the reason for his defection the first time. He ranted about the qualities of God, the same name that God had proclaimed to Moses in Exodus 34:5 – 7, citing the ‘bad’ nature of God as “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity”. He went ahead to ask God to kill him! This guy was angry, don’t you agree? Spectacularly angry!
It is amazing, isn’t it? A beneficiary of such great forgiveness, and it must have been recent, because Jonah went almost immediately to Nineveh after being dropped from his fishy ship (!) and the Ninevites reacted only after a day of his preaching. So, what did Jonah expect God to do to the Ninevites? Not forgive them at all?
A prominent public speaker and writer/dramatist in Ghana told a true story about two of the leading private journalists in Ghana, two good friends. One of them was imprisoned under the military rule in Ghana in the eighties. Whilst in prison, this journalist learnt that it was his friend who had betrayed him to the authorities, about their attempts to sabotage the military government. Till today, the victim has never talked about this betrayal in public and has indicated that he forgives his friend.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned under the apartheid regime in South Africa, for almost 27 years, released on 11th February 1990. He was 46 years old when he started his prison term and 71 years when he was released. He had over a quarter of a century of his life taken away from him, his freedom taken from him, and tormented in many ways especially psychologically. This is the man who found in his heart to forgive, and not to rest on the past ills. What was his motivation for this?
I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom)
You see, Mandela realised that it is not only the beneficiary of forgiveness who benefits. The giver does himself a great deal of good as well. Lawana Blackwell states this fact most eloquently: “Forgiveness is almost a selfish act because of its immense benefits to the one who forgives.”
The person who nurses the grudge is a great sufferer, sometimes the only sufferer, actually! In instances, the person who did the hurting is totally oblivious of what happened! Visit our psychiatric hospitals and you will find out that most of the patients there harbour great grudges in their hearts and are sitting on high stocks of forgiveness units. He who harbours the grudge and withholds forgiveness is oppressed. He is not free.
In the book of Matthew chapter 18 and verses twenty-one to the end of that chapter, Jesus talked about the parable of the unmerciful servant who was given much but forgave little. So, I come back to my initial thought: why is it that the greatest beneficiaries of forgiveness don’t forgive much? Why is it that those who are sometimes wronged the most, find it easier to forgive? The secret may be that they more than any of us know that to harbour such a great quantum of life will be against this advice: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
The scripture in Luke chapter six and verses thirty seven and eight is used mostly during offering time in church, but that is an extrapolated use. Taken in context, it is about forgiveness:
37″Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give those units of forgiveness out and remember that you will be reimbursed with that same measure you use.
Free yourself today. You want therapy, you want release, you want freedom as Mandela yearned for and obtained? Learn to forgive, and start right away. It is not easy, that is why so few walked this great path of forgiveness. I am trying to walk it, and I need company. Wanna come for a walk?
“When we hurt each other we should write it down in the sand, so the winds of forgiveness can make it go away for good. When we help each other we should chisel it in stone, lest we forget the love of a friend.” Christian H. Godefroy
“There was a king who had suffered much from his rebellious subjects. But one day they surrendered their arms, threw themselves at his feet, and begged for mercy. He pardoned them all. One of his friends said to him, ‘Did you not say that every rebel should die?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the king, ‘but I see no rebels here.’” Anonymous (Source: Sermon Illustrations, http://elbourne.org/sermons/index.mv?)
“When missionaries first came to Labrador, they found no word for forgiveness in the Eskimo language. So they had to make one which meant, ‘not being able to think about it anymore.’ ” Anonymous (Source: Sermon Illustrations, http://elbourne.org/sermons/index.mv?)
“Forgive many things in others; nothing in yourself.” Ausonius
“Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.” Cherie Carter-Scott
“’Tis the most tender part of love, each other to forgive.” John Sheffield
“There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.” Josh Billings (1818 – 1885)
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)
“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.” Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)
“Forgiveness does not always lead to a healed relationship. Some people are not capable of love, and it might be wise to let them go along with your anger. Wish them well, and let them go their way. Forgiveness is the healing of wounds caused by another. You choose to let go of a past wrong and no longer be hurt by it. Forgiveness is a strong move to make, like turning your shoulders sideways to walk quickly on a crowded sidewalk. It’s your move. It really doesn’t matter if the person who hurt you deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. You have things to do and you want to move on.” Anonymous Preacher
“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” William Blake (1757 – 1827)