My beloved brother Jim tragically took his own life several years ago, but it seems like only yesterday to me and it still grieves me and leaves me with a broken heart even today. I was going through his Bible this morning and reading his hand-written notes and saw one that read: “When on the edge, what would Jesus do?” Below it he had written: “Forgive – Don’t talk about others – Jesus wouldn’t.”
One of the most difficult things we face in life is forgiving those who have wronged us. In my case I have often spoken the words, “I forgive you,” but I find it most difficult to forget. What does Jesus do when we make a profession of faith? He states that our sins are forgiven, forgotten, and He will remember them no more.
So, if we follow His lead, we will do the same.
I don’t know about you, but I can forgive most people who have wronged me rather easily in comparison to forgiving myself. Intellectually I know that my sins were forgiven by God a half century ago and He created a new creature in me, but in my heart, I agonize over the grievous sins that I’ve committed especially during my dark days.
Of all the Bible heroes, (aside from Jesus), that I most admire, the Apostle Paul stands out in my mind. As best I can determine he was forgiven of the worst sins of any of the apostles. He oversaw the murder of Christians as well as having them beaten and jailed. After an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he became a fearless follower of Christ. The torture he endured on behalf of our Lord is mind-boggling. He was scourged three times, caned four times, shipwrecked, stoned, jailed, hated by his former friends, bitten by a poisonous snake and so on, and yet he shared the Gospel with everyone who would listen.
Paul knew what it felt like to be forgiven; he appreciated Jesus for His loving grace and forgiveness, and his life after Damascus was a living testimony to it. Did he forgive himself? He wrote in Philippians 3:13 – No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead . . .
Paul said in his own words that he focused on this one thing – forgetting his past. I have often theorized that the thorn in Paul’s flesh, for which he asked God to remove on three occasions, was that late at night he would lay in bed and recount the looks in the eyes of Christians he’d martyred. I can just imagine him reliving seeing Stephen being stoned at his behest.
Noted Bible scholar and teacher Kay Arthur and I discussed this, and she pointed to this verse to negate that thought and simply said she thought the thorn was his failing eyesight. I told her that maybe I was injecting my own demons on Paul as a defensive measure, and she looked at me, smiled, and slowly nodded affirmatively. She said, “Bob forgive yourself – Jesus has done so and so should you”.
Easier said than done my dear friend Kay – Easier said than done.
And so, we should all forgive ourselves and forget. I have witnessed to many thousands of people, and I cannot tell you how many people struggle with forgiving themselves and others.
It is hard to forgive and forget if we are focused on the wrong things, eh?
Focus on forgetting the past and look forward. I envision life as being akin to large a front windshield on an automobile. As we drive down the road new things unfold before us with every turn of the wheels. The rearview mirror is tiny in comparison and if we focus on it instead of what is unfolding before us, we will crash the car. Better to look ahead; (besides when I look in the rearview mirror, I don’t like what I see.)
I wish my brother could have read this and adhered to it. He struggled and was tortured with things of the past such as his young son Bob, (yes named after me), who tragically died of a brain tumor at just 5 years old. If only Jim would have looked forward instead of behind . . .
Keep fighting the good fight my friends and be excited about what will unfold in your life today!
Then Jesus declared, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”