At this time of year, many of us become acutely aware of the lack of peace, especially in the family front. Sometimes it’s because of a broken family or a blended family or rejection by a parent. Sometimes it may be that mean family member that just can’t let a year go by without making someone feel terrible. These situations and others can stir up some very negative emotions at a time that is supposed to be the hap- happiest season of all.
Those of us who know the story of Jesus’ birth know that the Prince of Peace was born that night so long ago. But if you follow His story to the end of His dwelling on earth in a human body, you’ll see that those in power rejected the peace that Jesus offered.
But they didn’t have the final say! God did. He still does!
Through Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself in our place, He opened up the way for us to be forgiven! This peace He offers may not be so visible in the external, but He gives it to those who trust Him in the internal, in the soul and spirit.
It’s interesting how our human psyche works, how we crave forgiveness when we’re truly sorry but are so reluctant to extend it to others. I personally have struggled with this, so I have first-hand knowledge about it.
Through Christ, God offers us both His forgiveness and the ability to forgive others.
I’ve often wondered what Jesus meant when He said:
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours.” Matthew 6:14,15 NASB
I thought it meant that I might somehow incur His wrath if I didn’t forgive.
But these verses are not about our salvation.
What I found over time is that when we don’t forgive,
- We are closing the door to fellowship with God by grieving His Spirit.
- We are harboring sin in our heart.
- We are holding on to our pride and not completely repenting of our sin.
- We are dwelling, instead, in rebellion against God.
- Our sin, then, is not just unforgiveness.
If we have trusted Christ as our Savior already, and He has forgiven us and given us peace in our heart, and someone injures us deeply, we may still have troubles forgiving that person. This will not take away our salvation, but it will take away our peace, as we grieve the Spirit through our disobedience. We cannot walk in harmony with God when we willfully choose not to forgive someone.
True peace with God only comes through full surrender to Him.
Imagine standing at the foot of the cross as Jesus suffers and bleeds for you and says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Now, how do all those excuses for not forgiving sound as you try to convince Jesus, as He hangs there, that you are right for not forgiving that person.
- But You don’t understand what they did to me.
- They don’t deserve to be forgiven.
- They haven’t said they’re sorry.
- If I forgive them, it will be as if I was saying what they did was not wrong, and it was.
- I just can’t.
- I don’t want to.
Well, first of all,
He does understand.
We didn’t deserve His forgiveness either.
He died for us before we ever said we were sorry.
He was not saying that what they did to Him was not wrong.
He offers us the ability to forgive when we truly repent.
He wanted to because of love, and He loved His enemies just as surely as He told us to love our enemies.
When we refuse to forgive, we actually leave open a “military campground” for the devil to keep on making plans to attack us.
Really, we are not doing ourselves a favor by not forgiving. We cause a huge portion of our own misery until we finally choose to forgive.
Then the real enemy has to go.
Then we open the door to fellowship with God again.
Then we have peace and joy in our heart again.
Today I am thankful and praise God that He has forgiven me through Christ, and I’m thankful that He gives me His peace and His strength to forgive when I surrender my pride, anger, and hurt to Him.
What about you? Do you have a less-than-peaceful holiday season because of some family member or members? Is there someone you still need to forgive? Are you willing and ready to have peace in your heart again by surrendering it all to Jesus?