Letting go of hatred and unforgiveness
How much grace does it take to love our enemies? Well, that is a good question. Tragedies are happening all around us and it’s true we are very heart-broken and alarmed, but what if one day our family is harmed? I admit that I do not always have the character of Christ when I’m being threatened or provoked to anger. Many times, my first reaction is to retaliate because that’s a strong part of our human nature. I realize that people need to be punished for their terrible acts of violence but the problem within our soul is the temptation to hold unforgiveness against them. Life is filled with challenges and situations that attempt to 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 mind-set, 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 with resentment and hatred. To those around us, everything may seem fine but inside we are full of anger and contempt. The battle we choose to fight in our conscience is something we want to do because we feel we are justified in our hatred. However, if we continue to embrace the desire for vengeance we are allowing the darkness of sin to control our thoughts and hold our soul hostage to contempt. Sadly, many would rather live in agony, brooding thoughts of hostility instead of releasing them to God and allowing Him to execute justice His way.
I was called to pray for an elderly gentleman the other day 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 talk 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 sad story of a disappointed and wounded family. The son was a Christian and had been dealing with resentment for years and as he continued to share about forgiveness, 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 our heart and mind.
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 Word 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 imaginations 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 to these negative attitudes becomes like a growing infection that can also desensitize us from having sympathy about other people’s pain and caring about their needs. This is a very serious problem 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, may we remember that living in the peace of God’s love and forgiveness is possible. Some may say they will not or cannot forgive but the Bible reminds us in Philippians 4:13, “I can do ALL things through Christ which strengthens me.”
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community outreach chaplain.