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Over the past months, and for what feels like an eternity, I have been up against the most painful situation I have ever encountered in my 30 years on this planet. At the head of this situation is one person who I see as chief architect and offender.
Those of you who know me would probably agree that I am a “nice guy”, I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever hated anyone – until now. I know that is wrong but I cannot and perhaps do not want to let it go. I have no desire within me to let them off for the wrong they have done to me.

But who is this attitude hurting? Is ‘my enemy’ shedding tears at the thought that they might be hated and unforgiven by me? Do they find themself absentmindedly dwelling on on the hurt and pain they have caused me? My guess is that it is unlikely.

Instead it is me who is left bitter and hurt, tearful and angry, broken.

The bitterness that I am holding onto is also preventing me from enjoying other sources of happiness in my life and, more importantly, is an obstruction between me and God. Unforgiveness is as much a sin as any other and any sin that we deliberately continue in can cause a block in our ability to talk to and hear from God.

This was illustrated to me so clearly as I drove home from work the other day. I have an hours drive and often use that time to pray, I had a list in my head but quickly found my mind wandering back to this painful situation and what I would say to the person concerned if I had the chance. I shook my head, tried to refocus and began praying again. It wasn’t long before I was raging against my foe again. At this point I realised God was challenging me to forgive this person.

What followed was perhaps twenty minutes of arguments and excuses:

“I can’t forgive”
“I don’t want to forgive”
“I’ve forgiven them before and they’ve continued to hurt me!”

Everything was gently rebuffed by God with a word or a scripture until finally I thought: “Father, they don’t deserve my forgiveness”.

At this point I was given a vivid picture in my mind of Jesus hanging on the cross, battered, bruised, pierced, completely innocent and yet bearing the weight of the whole world’s sin upon his shoulders. Looking up he said:

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)

I knew then I had no choice, how could I continue to crucify Jesus with my own sin of unforgiveness? Humanly I was still reluctant but in obedience I forgave. It hasn’t taken my pain away, but it has brought me back closer to the one who will walk me through it.

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’
22 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:21-22