When You Are Too Bitter To Forgive
But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
When Terry Anderson was taken captive by a guerilla group, little did he realize that he would be enduring what no one should ever be subjected to.
Anderson, age 40 at the time, had been the chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press. Soon after he was taken captive, he was given a Bible by his Shiite Muslim captors, and for the duration of his four-and-a-half-years of captivity, he drew strength and hope from the pages of this grand old book.
At the most difficult times, he said, “My faith kept me from giving in to despair.” It was also that relation with God that enabled him to forgive the very individuals who had deprived him of his freedom for more than six years.
“They did great wrong to me and my family,” he said, but instead of hating them, he explained, “I don’t hate anybody. I’m a Christian and a Catholic and I really believe it is required of me to forgive no matter how hard that is, and I am determined to do that.”
Terry Anderson took to heart what Jesus said long ago: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Question: Have you grown in your Christian experience to the point where you can do what Terry Anderson did? It may not have been that you were placed in a dark, underground prison cell with no light in it, as was Anderson’s situation. Instead, you may have become your own prisoner as well as jailer as you allowed a broken relationship to surround you with the darkness of bitterness and hatred. It may be that you are holding onto malice and hatred because your business partner cheated you out of your fair share of the partnership.
A little child frantically called his mother, crying that his hand was stuck in a priceless Chinese vase which had been in the family for many generations. The mother tried everything. Soapy water was poured around the neck of the vase, but that didn’t work. Then someone suggested cooking oil. That too failed. In desperation, the mother decided that there was no solution apart from breaking the old vase. After all, the little child was of far greater value than the old Chinese vase, no matter what its monetary value.
By then the father had arrived home. And the old vase was gently broken, freeing the little child’s hand, which slowly opened revealing a small coin which the youngster was triumphantly holding.
The individual who holds to bitterness has little comfort in the light of the tragic cost of not forgiving. “But you don’t know how badly I’ve been hurt!” you may be thinking to yourself.
“True! I don’t, but God does!” Do you remember, friend, that His son faced an unwarranted and cruel death, and as He was on the cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
To hate is human; to forgive, divine. When you come to the place where you think that you cannot forgive, remember the lonely form of the Galilean on the cross and realize there is no hope for us in the sight of God unless we learn to forgive. Paul underlined what Jesus said about the importance of forgiveness as he wrote, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians. 4:32).
Whether or not Terry Anderson’s captors were ever brought to justice wasn’t a driving concern. He released that burden. He’s free—and you can be just as free today.