Mat 18:21 Then Peter having come near to him, said, `Sir, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him--till seven times?'
Mat 18:22 Jesus saith to him, `I do not say to thee till seven times, but till seventy times seven.
I have been thinking a great deal about this and other related passages in the past few weeks, you see, I have been the unfortunate recipient of UN-forgivness.
To make a long story short someone I have mistreated in the past has blasted me with those memories, and not just the memories but the emotions that went with them. It hurt, but the worst hurt is what I saw in what that unforgiveness is doing to that person.
In this episode, I actually did not retaliate which is something I can thank the Lord for as that has not been my pattern before. Not retaliating left me in a position to be able to observe how resentment affects us and why forgivness is such an important part of the Christian walk.
First let me say that as a man and one who didn't start walking with the Lord until fairly late in life I had developed some very bad character defects which included being hyper critical, filled with pride, and self centeredness. Jesus has been slowly working these things out of my life, but like most of us it has been a slow process. So the accusations fired at me were not unfounded and in the past I would have vehemently defended my position and blamed the other person. The other person is not at fault for their anger, but the other person is at fault for their resentment.
Let me clear that up a bit.
When someone offends we have two choices, forgive or not. If we forgive we let go of the anger and as the dictionary says we, "treat the offender as not guilty". If we do not forgive and still have a relationship with that person, we may stuff the feelings until the next time an offense takes place. When that takes place those feeling become a ticking time bomb, as those feelings (now resentments) accumulate.
The truly evil side of resentments is that they live just outside of our consciousness and color our experience with the other person and our world. If resentments are allowed to fester they will blind us to the good the other person is doing for us and to us. They will wait in ambush for the other person to slip up then explode into a rage that is inappropriate for the offense. Even worse those accumulated resentments will begin to seek outlet on other people that have nothing to do with the original offense. In other words someone else may use the tone of voice or the look that the offender had used in his offense and that anger will boil to the surface against the unsuspecting third person. Divorces, cheating spouses, misunderstandings, dissolution of partnerships are often the result of festering resentments.
So what is the solution for one who is "working out their salvation"?
The scriptural answer is simple:
Eph 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Eph 4:27 Neither give place to the devil.
Simple but not easy.
Here is how I deal with it. First I have to realize that the offense may be at least partly my fault. I need to ask questions of my self like, "did I say something or act in a way that was offensive?", " could I have stated or done something different?," what was the state of my mind when the offense took place?". The hardest part of this is being honest with yourself especially in the heat of the moment. Sometimes it is necessary to talk to a third person about the situation trying not to blame or accuse the offender so as not to damage their reputation.
When you see your own fault for the situation, it's time to go to God. Remember He is quick to forgive (1 John 1:9), next is to admit to the offender my part and, only my part, in the offense and ask if there is anything I can do to make up for my part of the offense. This is hard to do because it is natural to want to shift the blame, no one likes to admit guilt.
I know you are asking but what about.......?
There are times when this procedure may be inappropriate, those are rare and could be a subject for a book.
This procedure will prevent you from developing resentments and it is a great procedure for examining and eliminating old resentments that you may have been carrying for years. It also helps us to be more loving to all, even unlovable people.
If you are not familiar with the self examination process, I did write a book on that subject. It's called "The Ten Commandments a Guide to Holiness" and can be downloaded from the Download page of this site or a print or Kindle version ordered from Amazon at: