The question is as powerful today as it was several years ago when I first heard it. I was sitting on a comfortable couch. My friends from several different churches gathered about the TV with Beth Moore teaching her Bible Study, "Jesus the One and Only" on the tube. We had our Bibles open on our laps and she was talking about having a deep, open relationship with God through our prayer life. It must be vibrant. It must be personal… be a priority… be on purpose… and for a purpose. I'm nodding my head, 'Yes, of course! I knew all this.'
Then she tells the story of being wronged by a Christian sister.
My brain moves from what she's saying to an incident that had happened not so very before. A woman who professed Jesus, but never acted like she possessed Jesus was trying to get me fired from my job. I was very good at my job, but she couldn't stand the thought of me getting praise for a job well done. She took credit for several things that I developed. She assassinated my character to the point that I still cannot get a job where I live. I'm thinking she couldn't stand the sight of Jesus in me. Every day of the week there was new trumped up evidence that she would present to my bosses putting me in the wrong and her in the Wonder Woman suit saving the day. I can't tell you the number of times she took credit for my work... and not just to my bosses. She was so busy smearing mud all over me, her work suffered. She finally succeeded in getting me fired.
I told God on her. I told Him everything she did. I pointed out how hurt I was and how this demonic attack was affecting my job, distracting me from bringing a better economy to my part of the state. I prayed that God would expose her. I prayed that God would take her peace from her, if she really was a Christian. I prayed that God would convict her of her sins of lies and intrigues and strife. Steam was building in my soul, and anger was about to boil over, then I suddenly came back to the present. "I heard Him ask me, 'What would you have Me do to her, Beth?' What could I say, but 'Have mercy, Lord! Have mercy!'"
Forgiveness. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." There isn't anything in that prayer Jesus taught His disciples which says, "Forgive us as we forgive only our brothers that offend us." Nor does it say, "Forgive us as we go about our daily life and never mind about those folks who offend us regardless whether they are Christian or not. They'll get theirs in the end anyway!"
Forgive them for they know not what they do. Stephen begged this as he was stoned. Jesus begged this as He hung on the cross. If they can do it in those circumstances, what is losing a job compared to that? There is much that God has forgiven me for, too much for me to harbor anger or bitterness against a woman that didn't understand eternal things. Nor did she know she was doing me a great favor in bringing me to my knees in front of my Lord and Savior. What a great blessing. What a great privilege. What a marvelous relationship builder as the Lord steps between me and Satan."Have mercy, Lord. Forgive her and bring her to Your side. Forgive her because she had no clue what she was doing because she didn't know the sweetness of Your forgiveness."
Several months went by. I thought I had forgiven her. I found out that I had not. She was sitting on the back pew of my church one Sunday night a few weeks ago. I didn’t recognize her until I was on my way home. So I had a bit of an excuse that night. But she was back the next Sunday. I had all week long to pray about it and still thought I’d forgiven her. I had not. I could not bring myself to go talk to her or to shake her hand and welcome her to church.
Have mercy on me, Lord. Forgive me for I did know what I was doing and I failed You. I did know the sweetness of Your forgiveness and I failed.
Then God reminded me that forgiveness isn’t horizontal. Forgiveness is vertical. It is between my heart and the Lord. If I harbor anger, resentment and bitterness, that comes between the Lord and me and that ruins our sweet relationship. That is a choice I have… a choice of action on my part.
I must guard my heart against grudges or feuds. If I consciously decide to release that anger and resentment to God, bitterness never forms and my relationship is refreshed. I do not have to be best friends with someone in order to forgive her. In fact, it is wise to be wary of the sinner’s ways, for they can entice away from God’s side and God’s ways. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16
My siblings, this is a lesson we need to keep close because we face this kind of soul shaking all the time. Christians slice and dice each other with surgical precision. In order to keep the communication lines open, we need to pray without ceasing, and forgive without measure.