As believers in Christ we are commanded to love one another and forgive those who have wronged us. But what do you do when you screw up, apologize and that person won't forgive you? Recently my nine-year-old did and said and did some things to his best friend that he probably should not have. His friend was understandably upset and hurt. We talked to our son about his actions and he realized what he had done was wrong. My son apologized and we thought that was that. However, the other little boy did not want to accept Jack’s apology and chose to get back at him. My son's little spirit was now hurting. He desperately missed his friend and wanted things to go back to the way they once were. With some prodding, the other boy finally verbally accepted my son's apology. It's been a tough lesson for Jack to learn at his young age. It’s hard to tell if the other boy actually does forgive him, or doesn’t want to get in trouble again for seeking revenge. Jack has had to accept the reality that his friend may never want to be his friend again.
As adults, we also have to deal with forgiveness issues, sometimes some very serious ones. I think everyone knows someone who holds grudges against others. Some friends and I were shunned by a girl with an unforgiving heart. We were close to Becky (not her real name). There was a silly misunderstanding between Becky and Darla (also not her real name). Becky chose to stop being friends with Darla because she couldn’t forgive what she thought Darla had said about her. Then slowly, other friends of Becky’s who loved her very much were shut out too. Apparently Becky didn’t want to hear the truth about some issues in her life that she needed to hear. She had asked for their advice, but didn’t like the answers they gave. She became angry and bitter at the other girls. Then it was my turn to be shut out of Becky’s life. I had tried to remain a neutral party through all of the issues with her other friends. Becky all of a sudden wanted nothing to do with me. I have no idea if I did something or said something that she didn’t like. She blocked all ways of contacting her. Of course I would apologize to her if I did something wrong. But she won’t even give me the chance to find what it is she is angry at me for. All we can do is pray for God to give her a forgiving heart.
God doesn’t want us to dwell on anger. He tells us this throughout the Bible. Psalm 37:8 for example says: Refrain from anger and forsake wrath. Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. There are countless examples of men and women doing horrible things because of their anger.Anger that remains in your heart can not just cause you to sin (seek revenge) against others, but also against yourself. Ephesians 4:26 states that: When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day. There’s a good reason for that. When you refuse to forgive someone, and hold grudges, and do mean things to get back at others, that does harm to you both physically and spiritually. Constant anger raises blood pressure. Anger affects your health and wellbeing. My mother was an angry person. She was not a forgiving person and that often resulted in her seeking revenge on those she felt wronged her. At age 73, she suffered a fatal brain aneurism. The surgeon said the weakened blood vessel was something she was probably born with. I feel that it was probably all those years of being an angry person that caused it to burst.
It’s not easy to be forgiving toward others. We need God’s help to be a forgiving person and not an angry vengeful person. As believers, we need to remember what Christ did for us on the cross to cancel out our sins. It’s something we can never repay Him for. But we can show others around us His forgiveness. We can teach our children about forgiveness and seek theirs when we screw up as parents. 1 Peter 3:9 says: Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. God wants us to forgive, so that we don’t miss some of the blessings we might have with those friends or family members we are angry at. None of us are perfect. We don’t always say and do the right things. We are human. There are people out there who expect us to be perfect and never say or do anything wrong to them. When you hold others up to that high of a standard, you’re going to be disappointed. When someone cannot or will not forgive us, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. Unfortunately, you can’t change someone else’s heart. Only God can do that.