When I decided to return to college, I sent my sons to live with my former husband, their father. They were twelve and thirteen years old. It was the worst choice I ever made!
Unknown to me, my husband was an “in the closet” pedophile who sexually abused our thirteen-year-old while he was living with him. Fast forward through this scenario--my son became ill and passed away from AIDS.
My initial reaction of hatred toward my former husband was so great, I seriously thought about hiring a “hit” man to kill him. For years, I was caught in the “trap of revenge.” It consumed me and created a fire inside that made me bitter and angry toward everyone. I wanted to repay this man for the wrong he had done to my son. I became his judge. My unforgiveness took on a life of its own; I made a choice to hold on to these feelings of anger for years.
I don’t believe very many persons have escaped being unfairly wronged. Throughout history, we have seen oceans of anger, hatred, and even death caused by unresolved, emotional unforgiveness. David’s son, Amnon, committed an unconscionable act against his half-sister, Tamar. His dishonor of her virginity destroyed her life. She was shamed and unable to ever marry because her innocence had been violated. David’s son, Absalom, entered into the mire of revenge, killing his brother Amnon and getting even with his father. Ultimately, Absalom met a tragic death.
We use different tactics to justify our unforgiveness. We may have heard someone say, “I will forgive, but I won’t forget.” This sounds humble and acceptable, but the truth is, it is false pride. A root of bitterness is still hidden deep in the soil of this heart. Other times, we will rank our unforgiveness as not as bad as some other sin like sleeping with another person’s spouse, homosexuality, having sex outside of marriage, murder, lying, and many others. These are worthless rationalizations.
Like you, I have committed countless human offenses and transgressions (sins) that were punishable and condemning. But forgiveness for my most heinous sin is made possible by the redemptive sacrifice of God’s son. Forgiveness is a choice I make to save my life. When I don’t forgive others:
Refusing to let go of past hurts puts me in bondage and alienates me from God’s Son, the source of all forgiveness. Each of us has committed wrongs and offenses against others without offering any apology or repayment of any kind.
You may believe that no one has been wounded by another as severely as you. But if you believe that God allowed the sacrifice of His innocent Son, you must also realize that sacrifice exceeds any comparison to your distress. Even though you have the right to expect an apology from your offender, your maturity will rise to new heights when you use your privilege of choice to abandon your expectation, release your offender, and walk in freedom.
The bottom line is that there is only one Judge. He is holy, just, righteous, loving, long-suffering, patient, and forgiving. He will give you time to self-correct. But in the meantime, guard and protect your heart from deadly poison because it contains the key to your existence.
We are to be so far removed from avenging that we willingly risk being taken advantage of again.”1
1 John Bevere, The Bait of Satan (Florida: Charisma House, 2004).