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September 17, 2017, 5:00 AM

Who are you struggling to forgive?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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. Ephesians 4:29-32


It amazes me how inserting a simple word into a sentence can drastically alter its impact. Oh, how we wish the author, the Apostle Paul, put an out clause when it comes to our anger. If we were the writer of this passage, we’d rewrite it completely. Our version would read something like this: “Get rid of some of the bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander. Love those who are lovable, but cling to the malice you have for those that caused you pain. Be kind and compassionate to those who deserve it, forgiving others on your own terms, because, after all, the forgiveness Christ extended to you was less than those individuals who caused you scars.”


Unfortunately, God didn’t give us a red pen to make corrections. Instead, Paul charges us to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger. There are no exceptions, fine print or loopholes. Every single emotion that divides and damages our relationships we are told to tackle head on. The Greek term Paul uses for ‘get rid of’ can be translated to mean to ‘remove, separate yourself from.’ In this passage, Paul draws a line in the sand when it comes to those emotions that destroy relationships. He is speaking of those places and situations that have remained off limits for far too long.  Now, I know what you are thinking, because I’m wondering the same thing. Is this charge by Paul even possible? Can you truly get rid of all anger? And even if it is truly possible, shouldn’t there be some exceptions to the rule?


Just like you, I have a few stories I can rattle off about past hurts and letdowns. I can point to wounds and scars that still sting to this day. And, chances are good, if you listened to my tale and I listened to yours, we’d feel completely justified in our anger and bitter responses to situations we had no control over. We’d pat each other on the back and say, “you are right, you are owed something.” Very few of us possess the strength and courage to instead challenge our perspective and suggest forgiving those who have caused us pain. And, we would never dare suggest that we are viewing life as a victim.  But, the reality is that’s exactly what I’m doing.  When I take on the victim role, I lead the conversation with justifications and excuses. My story becomes my crutch that prevents me from truly walking in freedom. It’s what I use to rationalize and excuse not only my behavior, but my heart set as well.


Since I can explain everything away, I don’t need to change or take responsibility for my response, or lack thereof. I can just sit back and continue to stew over my rage. The only action that is required on my part is making sure the other person pays for the deeds done against me. I think by playing the victim I’m punishing the other individual when in actuality, I’m the one trapped in my own prison. The key to unlocking my cell is visible and at my disposal. But, when I look at the word inscribed on it I cringe. It’s the last thing I want to do. Every part of me resists this response. I don’t want to submit to God’s authority in this area. Yet, the key sits there every moment of every day. Forgiveness is the key to letting go of my anger. It’s the only cure for the freedom I so desperately desire. My story may explain my behavior, but it never excuses my actions.


I’ve got to write a better story. One where my story collides with God’s forgiveness and it shapes my response to the world. I don’t want to tell a story of a victim who is trapped in their past. There is nothing courageous about that tale. True courage is found in my ability to forgive. By giving God access to your heart, He can form and shape your heart and lead you to the path of forgiveness. Who are you struggling to forgive? How is this influencing your anger and your approach to this relationship?


This is my Prayer: Father God, may I not use my past to justify my anger. Lord may I not attempt to justify my behavior or excuse my bitterness. Jesus remind me of the forgiveness You’ve extended to me and give me the courage to write a different story founded on forgiveness. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

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