Imagine driving to work on a busy highway, minding your own business. Suddenly, to your right, someone runs a stop sign and with squealing tires, zips in front of your car, forcing you to slam on the brakes and pull off to the side of the road. As you try to calm your nerves, the jerk in the other car never seems to acknowledge his mistake and speeds on down the highway.
How would you react? Would you scream, cry, shake your fist, curse him and all of his ancestry? Would you spend the rest of the morning, reliving the scene with your coworkers? Would your day be ruined, all because of the senseless, irrational, act of a stupid jerk who thinks the open road is paved just for him? And another thing, “I am sick and tired of being the patsy!!!” (Oops! Calm down, Larry.)
(Okay, I’m calm now.) Yet, the other driver – the jerk who caused all of your suffering is merrily going on with no knowledge of your misery. Think about it. The other driver was responsible for the near-accident but your reaction was not his fault. It was yours. The real damage was entirely self-inflicted. In a word, it is called: resentment.
One definition of resentment is to re-feel the pain. Resentment is like accidentally cutting your hand with a knife and then deciding to avenge yourself by stabbing the other hand. Ouch, that hurts!
Jesus has something to say about resentment.
The disciples were asking Jesus how to strengthen their faith. Jesus said: “If your brother (or sister) sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3,4)
Does this mean we have to forgive the jerk that tried to run over us? No way! Anyway, what does this have to do with faith? This is exactly what the people listening to Jesus asked and He answered them:
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Luke 17:6) What? What does Jesus mean?
The mulberry tree has extensive roots that run deep into the soil. It’s nearly impossible to uproot. Resentment like the mulberry tree has extensive roots that run deep within our soul and those roots are nearly impossible to move. But the mustard seed grows within the roots of the mulberry tree, the roots are loosened and the tree moves. The process of forgiveness grows within the roots of our resentment and like the mulberry tree those roots are loosened, our faith is strengthened and our seemingly immovable soul experiences change.
Do you want to strengthen your faith in a way that moves your very soul? Then, learn to forgive: Whether it involves a spouse or former spouse who hurt you deeply or a boss who stepped all over you. Was there a trusted friend who violated your confidence? Did a parent or relative abuse you? Do you need to forgive yourself?
You are never more Christ-like than when you forgive.
Does this kind of forgiveness sound impossible? Sure it is, without God. Yet, one psychiatrist wrote that 75% of his patients could walk out of the hospital if they could truly understand what it means to forgive and be forgiven. Such is the power of grace. Let me give you a famous example:
In 1660, John Bunyan was thrown into prison just for being a Christian. He could have let the experience ruin him but instead chose to forgive everyone involved and used the isolation as an opportunity to write Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the most influential Christian books ever written. The power of learning to forgive can produce that kind of sturdy faith within you.
Does an attitude of forgiveness ever come easy? Never! It’s a process that we must work at continually but God makes a clear promise that your willingness to forgive will give you a faith that will move mountains and change your life.
Great! “Now if I can only forgive that jerk on the highway that almost killed me!”