What do you think of the idea of spending the rest of your life physically tied to the person you hate more than anything in the world?
On the preschool playground, the school bully shoved Ben into the sand. “Shrimp!” he screamed, kicking clouds of dust into plumes around Ben’s head. Coughing, he propped his 50 lb. body up on elbows and knees. Before he could crawl meekly away, the the bully’s toe caught his left side and tossed him headlong again. Ben chose to stay low this time, listening to the tinkling laughter of his classmates. Even Katie, covered a guilty, complicit smile.
The teacher saw the ruckus from her window. Huffing indignantly as she left her half-eaten sandwich, she marched to the playground. “Ben, what in the world are you doing on the ground? How did you make Davey so mad? Get up!”
Ben stood. Humiliated he fled the playground. In the classroom again, he slipped into his desk. “I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.” As Ben sat, willing his tears of embarrassment into fiery tears of anger, it felt as if Davey were sitting on top of him. He struggled to breathe.
Jill blinked, then blinked again, sure that this woman standing in her kitchen was mirage. Paul looked stoic as he pulled the strange woman closer to him. Then he dramatically removed his wedding ring and dropped it in the sink. “We’re done, Jill. I’m leaving you for Marilyn.”
Jill fell into bed that night as if sagging under something twice her weight. Terrible names for Paul, words she had never said or thought before swirled madly in her mind. When she woke and tried to get out of bed, a leaden burden drug her downward.
These are both made up stories to illustrate the biblical meaning of forgiveness. In the New Testament, the Greek word most often used for forgiveness is aphiemi. Literally, it means “to let go from one’s power, possession, to let go free, let escape.” In her study, “Living Beyond Yourself,” Beth Moore explains the word picture painted by the Greek word for unforgiveness “as one in which the unforgiven is roped to the back of the unforgiving. Unforgiveness is the means by which we securely bind ourselves to that which we hate the most.”
That’s certainly not our intention! By hating someone we imagine that they are daily feeling our scorn. Perhaps they are. But we are not only feeling our scorn, we toil constantly to stoke the fires of anger. We live exhausted by our efforts, sweltering in the flames of animosity. Is it really worth it?
Beth carried the analogy further, “You cannot keep step with the Spirit when you are encumbered by the load of unforgiveness.”
Obviously, we are called to walk in communion with the Holy Spirit. We cannot escape Christ’s command to forgive as God has forgiven us. (Colossians 3:13)
“Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
Jesus leaves us no choice but to release the enemy we have foolishly lashed to ourselves. It’s a fair trade – for He promises rest. (Matthew 11:30)