By Dr. Billy Holland
How much grace does it take to love our enemies and those who have hurt us? Well, that’s a good question. Tragedies occur all around us and it’s true we are heart-broken and disturbed, but what happens we are personally offended or our family and friends are harmed? I admit that I do not always have the character of Christ when I’m being threatened or attacked. Many times, my first reaction is to retaliate because it’s a part of our old nature, but I agree that people need to be punished for their evil deeds and acts of violence. However, the temptation to resent and be bitter is real. Life is filled with challenges and situations that lure us into bad attitudes but for the serious Christian, it’s the forgiveness of Christ that can teach us and lead us into the peace that passes all understanding.
When we fall into a negative mindset, our joy which is our spiritual strength, evaporates and we become weak and discouraged. Anger and the desire for revenge can emotionally, mentally, and spiritually hold us in the bondage of misery. If we allow ourselves to become weighed down with animosity, our relationship with God suffers which is why it’s so important to not become entangled in the snare trap of hatred. To those around us, everything may seem fine but deep within our heart we are seething with contempt. The battle we choose to fight in our conscience is something we desire to do because we feel justified, but if we continue to embrace these feelings we are allowing the darkness of sin to control our thoughts and hold our soul hostage. Sadly, many would rather cuddle thoughts of hostility instead of releasing them to God and allowing Him to execute justice His way.
A while back I received a call from the Veterans Center to pray for an elderly gentleman that was near death. He was barely able to understand or communicate because of the heavy doses of morphine. His son was sitting next to the bed and after a while he started to share some personal thoughts about his dad. They were not close and he began to describe a man that was not only harsh and uncaring but actually abusive. I could sense the deep emotional pain as he revealed the sadness and disappointment of a wounded family. The son was a Christian and had been dealing with resentment for years and was aware of his need to find closure, amazingly I could see the love and peace of God in his countenance. This type of emotional pain is truly a heavy burden, but If we sincerely ask the Lord to step into our situation, He is the only one who can bring inner healing to the deepest places of our being.
If you watch a toddler you will notice they react to basic experiences of hunger, affection, disappointment, happiness, and anger but have not yet learned the dangers of being offended. Resentment is one of many attitudes we naturally develop as we grow older and it’s only through inviting Christ to become our Lord and allowing His truth to transform our mind that we can be molded into His way of merciful thinking. God wants us to be open and honest with Him and not suppress these ugly emotions which can damage our personal relationship with Him. The opportunity to call on Christ is always available as Psalm 46:1 declares, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Holding on or letting go of these negative attitudes is our choice. If we keep them they become an infection that can also desensitize us from having sympathy about other people’s problems. This is a very serious because it involves the Christian’s most precious asset – our love. The enemy of our soul will use anything he can to hinder our love and discourage us from praying for others. May we never lose our focus to humbly serve and obey Christ because we are blinded by our own misery. Whatever someone has done to hurt us, let us remember that living in the peace of God’s love and forgiveness is possible. Resentment incarcerates the conscience but forgiveness is the key that opens the prison door. Some may say they will not or cannot forgive, but Mark 11:25 reminds us, “And whenever you pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive them, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
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