As Executive Director of a Crisis Pregnancy Center, I see people in emotional pain. Every day.
One of the main focuses of every program that we have is for people to come to a place of forgiveness for those who have hurt them. Sometimes, the forgiveness is for unspeakable things. Sometimes, I don't sleep well after hearing these things.
One of the questions I inevitably ask is, "Does God have any conditions in forgiving you?" Typically, the answer is no, God has no conditions. But does He?
In the Lord's prayer, we pray "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us."
Mark 11:26 says "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions." Ouch.
Whenever I think of this, a picture forms in my mind. I'm holding a large number of helium balloons which will lift me closer to God. But in my other hand, I have a hook. And that hook is in the people that I have not yet forgiven for hurting me or my family. As long as my "bitterness" hook remains, I will not allow myself to draw closer to God. So, in reality, this is not about my relationship with the person who has trespassed against me. It is about my relationship with God. I need to pray for those who have hurt me, but if they remain unrepentant, they will inevitably have to answer not to me...but to God, the Maker of the Universe.
As I shared the picture with a man this week, a different image formed in his mind. He said, "I'm getting the picture of two or three large helium-filled balloons which represent a few people in my life that I have not forgiven. Each time I choose not to forgive, one of the balloons breaks. If my bitterness continues to grow, soon I will have no balloons left..."
Suddenly, I had more incentive to forgive...