Forgiveness? You’ve Got to be Kidding!

By Keith Miller | May 25, 2009

Keith, how can I quit resenting people who have ridiculed me or lied to me, etc.? I can’t seem to shake off resentments—even when I pray and want to let them go.

When I first read the question I thought, you’re asking the wrong guy. But then I realized that I haven’t harbored a resentment for a long time, and when I thought back I had to laugh at myself at how long it took me to do the things necessary to me to give resenting up.

I have Charlie by the scruff of his shirt with my left hand, and was about to knock him out of the front door backwards! I can still feel the resentment seething up from my chest into my face and arms, giving me an unreal strength.

Just then I hear my wife’s voice. She is shaking my shoulder gently from the other side of the bed. “Keith, wake up; you’re having a bad dream.”

The fantasy of my beating up Charlie, my associate who shamed me at the office, collapses like a pop-up scene in a child’s King Arthur book as I wake up and roll over.

In that half sleeping-half awake state, I realized that resentments have plagued my life since I was a child. Usually they are fueled by my perception that someone has slighted me, gossiped about me, not included me in an “invitation” of some sort, been disloyal, or cheated me. But whatever the “crime,” obsessions about resentments have caused many painful and helpless hours. I flutter back into the pillow and close my eyes.

*

I see a heavy walnut door swinging open in the basement video theater of my mind. A title rolls across the screen as I sit down: ACT ONE: “JUSTICE” The action is just beginning. We are in a great courtroom, with a heavy walnut judge’s bench. A huge white-haired figure in a long white robe is sitting behind the bench, looking remarkably like God. He is handing down justice from this “highest court in the land.” My associate, Charlie, the one who humiliated me, is standing before the bench. The scene begins with the crashing of a thousand-pound gavel and a roaring voice—deep and powerful enough to be heard across the Rose Bowl—“GUILTY.” I smile and nod my head.

Now a familiar dramatic scenario begins to unfold as the title “ACT II: REVENGE. THE COST THEY’LL PAY!” is rolling across the screen. And then, there I am, the prosecutor, the hero, delivering creative, brilliant, scathing, and cutting accusations about the heinous nature of the guilty party’s crime, and calling for the most horrible sentence possible, as I subtly orchestrate the offender’s fate—actually wanting to clobber him physically as “the enemy”! (He mumbles that he’s sorry, but I know he doesn’t mean it.”)

I’m angry and I go to the Bible to see what Jesus said about forgiving. (That was not a good experience.) Jesus said that what God decides to do about forgiving us is connected directly with our forgiving other people. “You can’t get forgiveness, for instance, without forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.” (Mt. 6:14, 15, The Message)

My mentor explains to me that it isn’t that God’s being hard-nosed and legalistic; it’s just that when I’m filled with resentment and unforgiveness I am automatically disqualifying myself to receive forgiveness.

I know that Act III is supposed to be “FORGIVENESS,” but I also know that I usually just rewind Acts I and II and play them over and over, day after day, escalating the revenge and punishment scenarios when I’m really into a big-time resentment. But this time I hear the wise deep voice of the Judge telling me: “Mr. prosecutor, when you keep resenting people, you are letting them life rent free in your head and it shuts the doorway to you-know-Who.”

I cry out, “But how can I quit? I’ve tried and tried, but there seems to be no ‘power off’ button when I am into a resentment scenario!”

The Judge replies as patiently as he can, “Forgive him! That’s the healing remedy I’ve given you to stop the pain of resentment.”

Forgive my associate?! I try—and sure enough, I feel better—for about five minutes, and then I am back obsessing about the wrong he’d done to me.

“See,” I whine to the Judge, “forgiveness just doesn’t work for me!”

“Forgive him again! and get back to work at what is before you today, (without congratulating yourself for forgiving him.) Think about the time you first came to me for forgiveness and mercy and I forgave you. Do this as many times as it takes, and one day the resentment just won’t come back. Then you can move to the final scene, ACT III, and the freedom I’ve provided for those under my jurisdiction through the miracle of forgiveness-which is the only way to get free when someone hurts you.”

I cry, “It’s not fair!” But the giant gavel crashes on the Judge’s bench again.

“Next case,” the deep echoing voice says, and a shrill bell rings. And I know what I have to do.

I Jump awake with a start as my wife is leaning over me to answer the first call of the morning on the bedside phone. “It’s for you,” she says sleepily. “It’s Charlie, from the office.”

“Forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated several times through the day and he says ‘I’m sorry. I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3,4 THE MESSAGE)

Lord, thank you that you have stayed with me until I finally see that my own sin and judging and condemning Charlie is more crippling to me than anything Charlie has done. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me another chance. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Topics: Christian Living | Comments Off on Forgiveness? You’ve Got to be Kidding!
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