“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Anger is my go-to reaction. I struggled with self-control for most of my childhood. It felt like there was always this deep ball of rage inside of me that was ready to explode at the drop of a hat. I relate very much to that of the Marvel hero, The Incredible Hulk, mild mannered Bruce Banner, but as soon as something makes him angry, he turns into a green rage monster. Yeah, that was basically how I felt (and sometimes still feel). Big or little, it didn’t matter what it was, I got angry at people. Now, I wasn’t getting into fist fights with people, mainly just not-so-great words yelled. I would hold these grudges against people, I never wanted to let go, I never wanted to forgive. Maybe it was spite, the thought that they would see my grudge and stop what they had done horribly wrong. I directed this rage at my family which would hurt our relationships, I directed the anger at my bullies in hopes that I could one day get back at them, and I directed bitterness towards anyone else who wanted to get close. What I learned in my un-forgiveness was that I had chained myself and created a prison for myself.
We are in the season of Easter, the best time to celebrate as a follower of Jesus. Christmas is awesome, but Easter truly deserves way more hype. The reason why Easter is so incredible, is because it’s the ultimate hero story of forgiveness and redemption. Jesus was born and fulfilled prophecy, the Jewish people at the time believed he was a warlord come to finally kill the rulers of the Jewish people. The truth was, Jesus wasn’t a man sent to bring the hammer down, he came to be friend of sinners. Jesus loved the people, no matter what. Even when they turned on him and murdered him, his final words as he hung dying on a cross, was, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34, Joshua Ultimate Edition Translation).” That’s powerful. I know my Hulk inside would not be the one saying that, but that’s how much God loved us. We celebrate Easter not only for Jesus’ death, but the resurrection three days later. The bible is a love story about how God made us, Jesus saved us, and the Holy Spirit walking with us once we enter a relationship with Christ. It’s the story of how we were forgiven and redeemed by a sinless man who was also God. What we see from this moment, is that when we start choosing forgiveness, we start breaking chains, we start living truly free.
I don’t like bullies, but I choose to forgive them.
One of the most powerful things I’ve ever learned was while I was in a small group, talking about freedom. We were talking about forgiveness, and the study said that forgiving is not forgetting or reconciling the relationship, that’s dangerous. Forgiveness is loving the person and letting go of the grudge you hold in your heart. You don’t have to be buddies, a majority of the time this can be dangerous to your mental and physical health, it’s simply getting rid of the poison you hold in your heart. The verse opening this blog reminds each of us that we need to let go of that raging hulk monster inside, because God forgave each of us in the midst of our messed-up selves. I don’t like bullies, never have, and probably never will. What I choose to do, is to forgive bullies. I’m not saying what they have done to you or I is right, or that they should be let off the hook, I believe is justice for those who hurt others, but I will forgive and love them. This isn’t easy for me. As I said earlier, I have this Hulk inside ready to get out. I have faced bullies throughout my childhood, but I have also seen loved ones close to me deal with bullies of their own. Loved ones who have faced abuse, who have been assaulted physically and sexually, who have been manipulated and mistreated, and those who have been spoken words of death over their lives. These people have been through the most difficult of fires; they are the strongest people I have ever met. They are strong because they have all chosen forgiveness in the face of their bullies. They live free. You don’t have to like bullies, but by choosing to forgive them makes you freer than they will ever be.
Forgiveness repairs and restores relationships.
As a kid and even a young adult, I was wrapped up in chains. I had hate in my heart, and it hurt the relationships with people who did nothing wrong to me. My family and friends, they got the brunt of it. I would get so mad over the dumbest things, I had a choice to make. There were bullies that did true wrong to me, and there were people who loved me and simply got under my skin as most family does. I had the choice of holding anger over these loved ones or forgive the small offenses and choose to fight for the relationships that actually matter. I chose to fight for these relationships, I’m by no means perfect, but I choose to make them a priority. I think back to my time in that Freedom (used to be called Life) small group, I wrestled with this anger. In my head I pictured myself in a fiery cave wrapped up in chains. When I chose to let go of my rage, it looked like the flames went out and the chains rusted away. I was able to be free. I never want to go back to the bondage. When I chose forgiveness, the relationships that matter to me were restored, and I no longer pushed outsiders away. Do people still hurt and disappoint me? Sure, but I’ve done the same. The truth is, God forgave me, so why would I not choose to do the same? When you choose forgiveness, the relationships that matter are repaired and restored, and these relationships have the potential to give us life.
I live free now. I no longer let out this Hulk inside of me, no longer do I choose to hold onto the grudges and bitterness. I never want to go back to the fiery cave in my mind, locked up and bound by chains. I know for many of you, you have experienced great hurt. People in your lives have mistreated you and violated you. Forgiveness is not easy. Jesus didn’t enjoy his beatings, his mocking, the people who once loved him then betray and spit in his face. Yet despite his hurt, he chose to forgive. God can empower us to forgive others. I recently was struggling. I was put on a roller coaster of emotions, and I was angry. In that moment I chose to forgive, believe me, it wasn’t easy, but I chose to pray out loud, and ask God to give me the strength to forgive and to help me trust that he had a plan in the midst of my pain. I encourage you to pray out loud, say the names of those who hurt you, and ask for God to empower you to forgive. Don’t let the Hulk inside you out on a rampage, choose to forgive the same way Jesus forgave you.
Live in freedom by choosing forgiveness.
Today I mentioned some serious forms of abuse. Physical and verbal abuse as well as sexual assault and rape are serious, and if you are in a situation like this, you need to protect yourself and live free from this. God wants you to be in a situation where you are protected from the person doing you harm, and there is always hope. Please contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline online or at 1-800-799-7233.
There is hope, and you are so worth loving.