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Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.  Max Lucado

God has worked in my heart for years on this. He reminds me of people I have, intentionally, forgotten. People who hurt me or offended me. People I didn’t want to remember. People I didn’t want to forgive. People who made me put my hands on my hips and stamp my foot and say, “they don’t deserve my forgiveness!”

When I gave God permission to create a clean heart in me, when I asked, even sought Him, for a whole heart He came in and started rooting around opening boxes and dirty little bags I didn’t know were there.

I have a great capacity for ignoring ugly and painful things. Whenever I am overwhelmed by them I pretend they aren’t there. I push them into a far corner of my heart and walk away. Once I’ve done my stamping dance of unforgiveness, I never look back. Until God.

Until the day Jesus came knocking on the door of my heart wanting to come in and be closer to me. He asked to come share a meal and to be friends. He asked to be invited to the inside of me. It was years before I trusted Him enough, before I was brave enough, to let Him into the place of my hiddenness. I’ve come to see that while I was ignoring pain and ugly, fear nibbled at the edges and made me ignore God’s call as well.

Jesus stands at the door of the hearts of his followers. He knocks on the door of those of us who’ve said, Yes, at some time in our lives. He patiently waits to be invited inside. Waits for us to choose more. To bravely open the door.

Following Jesus into forgiveness is a big thing. As a model for walking in love, Jesus was pretty much unrivaled.

“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Jesus

On most days, I am not like Jesus. Oh heavenly Father, forgive my dark heart that does not want forgiveness for my enemies but wants to call down fire upon them instead. That wants to see them pay for their sins against me. My dark heart that desires vengeance for the pain they brought into my life.

And I see Jesus, not raising a sound against those persecuting Him, spitting on Him, wounding Him and bringing Him great mockery and pain.

I hear Him say, “No one takes my life. I freely give it.”

I see His heart, His trust in His Father’s intentions. His trust that the future of His obedience is glorious because He knows His Father’s heart toward Him. And He knows if there had been any other way to forgive the world, Jesus would have been spared the cross.

As Jesus hung on the cross, He forgave all those who had put Him there. He asked the Father to forgive them, too. I believe it was because He saw the Father’s heart for those created in His image. Those He wanted to call sons and daughters. Those He longed to hear cry, “Abba, Father.”

Out of this great love, forgiveness was born and redemption came alive. As He forgave us, as He released our sins from us, as He chose to not hold our sins against us, so we go and do likewise.

Bless those who spitefully use you.

It’s bigger than ‘committing’ them to God because that feels like permission to hold onto a dark little part of me that wants them to get what’s coming to them. Thinking surely God will discipline or punish them for what they’ve done.

When I bless my enemies, I must come to God with an open heart and open hands asking Him to richly pour out His love upon them. Asking Him to pour out His mercy, hope, grace, and goodness upon those who brought the greatest pain into my experience. Only then do I understand the heart of God who wants no one to perish. Who showers goodwill on all.

To share in the sufferings of Christ is, perhaps, to die to my heart of vengeance. To fall in love with the Father and want His love and kindness that leads to repentance to be experienced by those I see as my enemies.

To follow Jesus I must forgive. The Way of Jesus is a path of continual forgiveness of my sins. Of the sins of others. The Way of Jesus leads to life—to freedom from carrying the burden of others’ sins.

God cares deeply about our wounds. We are precious to Him. He gathers our tears in bottles, but He doesn’t see my enemy as an enemy. It is not His goodness in me that cries out for vengeance and judgment on the ones who hurt me. It is anger. It is the voice of pain and injustice crying out to be heard. To be seen. To be vindicated.

Am I not willing to take the hurt and give it to God so another can be set free from the flames of hell? Set free from the torment of the true enemy of God, the devil, and his lies? So another could be led to repentance by the kindness of God in me and through me?

Or must I demand every last coin owed from the one who wounded me?

Am I choosing to not walk into the glory before me but stay in the shadow of the earthly realm where an eye for an eye rules?

The way of Jesus demands purity of heart. At some point, He shows me what I can’t take into the kingdom. Things I carry that don’t fit through the door. Things that bring death not life.

Father, forgive them, please don’t hold their sins against them. They don’t know what they’re doing. Father, forgive me for holding their sins against them. For demanding they pay when Jesus has already paid the price for all our sins.

To fully receive forgiveness, I must walk in forgiveness. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.

I cannot walk in the kingdom without forgiving. I think He let me visit so I would get a glimpse of His glorious intentions. Or maybe when I was too young to know better, He allowed me safe passage for a bit. But as I follow Jesus, He begins to speak more seriously to me. He lets me know I cannot inhabit or inherit my place in the kingdom without forgiving people. I cannot hold their sins against them. I am not allowed to withhold forgiveness. Jesus’ sacrifice brought enough forgiveness into the world to cover us all. If I follow Him. If I love Him, I will see this sacrifice was enough. Enough for me to forgive and bless my enemies because when I was an enemy of God, He forgave me. He said, “Father, forgive her, she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Do not hold her sins against her. Hold them against me. Let my sacrifice be enough to make her whole, free, and alive.”

Forgiving my enemies makes room in their lives for God to come in and destroy the foundations of the devil’s work. It allows me to speak freedom and life and light over people, families, cities, and communities.

Help us to be people of forgiveness, Lord. People of patience, hope, and compassion. A living testimony of God’s love. Show me how to pray for all people, that your compassion and kindness would come to them. Show me how to be a person of reconciliation introducing others to Jesus. To Abba Father.

Give me a heart for all those You love but I don’t. The unloveable ones who frighten me, who hurt me, who criticize and misjudge me. The ones who accuse me, even of things I never did. The ones who throw rocks because they don’t understand me or are jealous. The ones who mock me because it’s easier than getting to know me. Help me, Father, to stay nestled in your heart, feeling the beat of your love for all. Help my heart to beat that way, too.