It saddens me to see all the angry faces in the news coverage. It saddens me even more when I see them on friends. I’ve watched cracks develop in friendships of more than 20 years, and I ask myself, “why?”
Actually, I already know the core of the problem. It’s a fundamental flaw in human nature, and it can be a fatal one.
It’s a failure to love each other like Jesus commanded. Our natural inclination to like people who are like us, who agree with our opinions and value what we value…that’s not a bad thing, but it falls far short of what Jesus tells us to do.
Disagreements can sorely test and even break friendships, turning the affection of former friends into barely masked hostility.
But they don’t have to.
In a time of dissension and open hostility, we need to embrace the radical lifestyle of forgiveness.
If I love agape style, unconditionally as an act of the will instead of an emotional response, part of that love is forgiving the other person. (God knows I need to be forgiven often enough myself!)
Jesus addressed this in his Sermon on the Mount.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” (Matthew 5:43-47 (NKJV))
Most of the conversations I get into where discussing turns to disagreement and then to anger are not with enemies. They’re with friendly acquaintances or even good friends. But the angry words of friends can hurt much more than those of enemies because we value a friend’s opinion much more.
And when we are hurt, we’re called to do what isn’t natural…forgive.
It’s funny how the simple step of deciding to forgive a hurt makes it hurt less. When I reach the point of truly forgiving, it may not hurt at all. But there’s a greater reward that comes from obeying God in this.
Jesus included forgiveness in his model prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Every time I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I’m reminded of how important it is for me to let go of any grievance I have against another and forgive.
There’s peace in the present from doing that and benefit for eternity.
Jesus gave us this promise: “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 (NIV))
I want that forgiveness, and I’m going to keep my focus on forgiving others, as I hope they will forgive me.
Do you find yourself struggling with forgiveness?