By, Isam Itson III
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
One of the most difficult things that I deal with as a follower of Jesus Christ is the memory of past offenses. I can be living my life, not a care in the world, and out of nowhere a person’s name or face will come to mind and I am overwhelmed with the memory of their disloyalty, ignorance, or outright cruelty.
Even the momentary perception of an offense can derail our whole day. One occasion that stands out to me and helped me learn how to withstand these moments and not be overcome with resentment actually involves my offense against someone else.
I once had someone accuse me of saying that their property being flooded was an expression of God’s judgment against them. They had just started attending our church, and they had come in to discuss an idea they had to enhance our community service. In the course of our conversation, they told me about their basement flooding during a recent flood that had swept through their town.
People who know me know that I don’t tend to think of weather events as specific acts of God’s personal or communal judgment. So I know that I never said that God was judging them or anything implying that God was judging them. Yet this person perceived this was my attitude toward their personal tragedy.
Months later, while working a community event sponsored by the church, they informed me that they were writing a book and I was in it. I replied, “Cool.”, and went about my business. This man was holding a grudge against me for an offense that I did not commit and he had allowed it to become a part of the narrative of his life.
His perception of my offense was motivating a specific response to me. From his perspective, I had offended him. There was no convincing him otherwise. So to him, my offense was real.
This whole episode taught me that the power I give to the words and actions of others to affect my outlook on life has less to do with them and more to do with me. A loving person is too busy loving God and honoring God’s love for others to hold grudges. In fact, when someone offends them, personally or accidentally, they use the opportunity to exercise God’s grace in relationship with other people. Because the experience of personal insult or injury does not have the power within itself to stop them from following God wholeheartedly and forgiving those who offend them.
The power to stand with God or give in to self interest lies within our own power to cultivate. “Will I exchange the privilege of glorifying God with my whole life for the self serving opportunity to exalt myself?” “Will I spend my God given time and energy to honor God or honor myself?” Ironically, seeking honor for ourselves and our families is an empty pursuit, while seeking the honor of God fulfills our lives and the lives of our friends and families.
When I do not hold what you do against me I am saying that you do not have power over me. In essence I deny you the power to hurt, overwhelm, or define my life and value in a way that dishonors the depth and value of God’s love for me. Only God has the power, wisdom, and authority to properly define my life. Every time I encounter someone who treats me with disrespect or dishonor, I have the opportunity to exercise my reliance upon God rather than reliance upon myself. In this way, God’s love becomes a more integrated and defining aspect of my character. This helps me become a more free, forgiving, and faithful person.
1. Are you tormented by the thoughts of how you have been wronged by someone? What is it about that situation that is making forgiveness so difficult?
2. Read Colossians 3:12-13 How does this verse make you feel about forgiving others?
3. “Only God has the power, wisdom, and authority to properly define my life.” Do you believe this to be true? How can you live in that truth today?