We want people to forgive us when we make a mistake. But sometimes we find it really hard to forgive another person when that person has made a mistake that affects us. Sometimes it matters to us whether or not the person did it on purpose. Really, it shouldn’t. A mistake, whether an intentional act or not, is a mistake. We all make them. Even folks that are generally on the right path with God will make some brain-dead decisions, especially if fear is in play. Take for example:
Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. – Genesis 12:10-16, ESV
Abram made a huge mistake. He chose to lie about the fact that he and Sarai were married. The reason he made this mistake in the first place was that he was afraid. He was afraid the Egyptians would take Sarai away and kill him. Instead, he and Sarai pretended to be brother and sister, which was partially true (they were half-brother/sister to each other). Abram’s reasoning was that as her brother, he might have a chance for the goodies. They might throw some things his way because he was the brother. I can see the logic in his argument. If he’s just her brother, and she’s not traveling with a husband, then there’s a possibility she can be won over as a wife without forcing her into anything. It would probably be easier if they get the brother on their side, so they ply him with gifts, he puts in a good word with his sister, and she agrees to marry one of the locals. On the other hand, if they knew Abram and Sarai were married, that means she’s off-limits while the marriage is still in existence. How do you break the marriage? You kill Abram. Logically there is some justification for his action.
But the problem is that Abram was relying on his own craftiness rather than God’s protection. God hadn’t made him into a great nation yet. But that was the promise we find up in verse 2. For that to happen, Abram had to survive this encounter and he had to have at least one kid. By going the route Abram took, of lying about the relationship, Abram showed he didn’t have full confidence in God. He acted in a way contrary to God’s nature. In short, He sinned. And when he sinned, he basically told God, “Look, I don’t know if I can trust you to keep your promise.” For many of us, that would have a slap in the face. A response most of us would have liked to give is, “You’re going to trust on your own capabilities? Fine, the deal is off. Hope you knew what you were getting into.” But this isn’t the way God responded.
First, God still went out of His way to protect both Sarai and Abram. Second, God didn’t withdraw His promises in spite of Abram’s huge blunder. And third, He continued to bless Abram and develop the relationship with him. If anyone had a right to write off someone else, God had that right. If anyone had a right to hold a grudge, God had that right against Abram. However, God didn’t do any of that. Instead, God stayed the course. And in doing so He se the example for us, too.
So what does that mean for us? It means we have to forgive. He tells us that a lot in Scripture, doesn’t He? It means we still have to look out for what’s best for that other person. Well, that makes sense, because it’s part of “love your neighbor as yourself.” It means we have to let go of our anger, realize that we may never see retribution, and be okay with that. It means letting go of the bitterness and resentment that might have built up, allowing those poisons to seep away and affect us no more. It also means seeking to restore the relationship if we’ve severed it in some way with our anger.
Is there someone you are still holding a grudge against? Can you let go of it? Will you let go of it? If you’re struggling with just forgiving and letting go, seek Jesus in prayer. After all, He’s the one that uttered, “Father, forgive them for no they know not what they do.” He knows what it takes to forgive. He has forgiven us, hasn’t he? So let us forgive in the manner of our Savior’s example.