Last week I went to Dunn Bros. with my roommate. While we were sitting there enjoying our drinks, she realized that she had this game in her purse. It was a deck of cards with all sorts of questions and conversation starters. One of the questions she asked me was something along the lines of, "If you could write an Eleventh Commandment, what would it be?" Without missing a beat, I replied, "Thou shalt not hurt my roommate." After she laughed, I decided to expand my answer to the broader statement, "Thou shalt not hurt my friends."
I hate seeing my friends get hurt. I'm a fiercely loyal person, and with that trait comes a strong desire to defend those that I love. I constantly want to enforce my "Eleventh Commandment." One of my best friends asked me once if I ever got mad. I told her if someone ever hurt her, she'd find out.
I don't mind nearly so much if I get hurt. I might be upset for a awhile, I might even cry, but chances are I'll move on relatively quickly. I am sometimes reluctant to forgive those who wrong me, but with time (and a whole lot of help from God), I can usually let things go.
If someone hurts someone I love . . . well, that's a whole other story. I can hold onto grudges against those individuals for years . . . sometimes long after the friend who was hurt has moved on and forgiven the offending individual.
I realized at church on Sunday that my attitude in that area is just not ok. I've been in denial about it for a long time . . . but really, if I claim to want to follow Christ, there isn't much I can say in my defense against His words:
27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
If I'm going to identify myself as a disciple of Jesus Christ, an unforgiving heart is not an option. Righteous anger aroused when the people I love are unjustly wronged is fine — even Jesus got angry in some circumstances (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; John 2:13-17). But allowing that anger to fester and turn into bitterness . . . that's definitely not ok. Besides being incredibly unhealthy and unproductive, bitterness is sinful:
21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Forgiveness isn't optional. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, "Forgive others . . . if you feel like it." It simply says, "Forgive others."
Now if only that was as easy to live as it was to type . . .