Some sin scars the memory for life.
In college, someone sinned against me in a very significant way. This was one of those situations where the perpetrator did not know that I knew what he had done. I forgave the sin, shut my mouth, and never revealed his act.
At least, I thought I had forgiven the sin . . .
Over the years I reasoned that my silence was proof of my forgiveness. But I have come to realize that I have carried that incident as a trump card that I could lay down for that person or someone who knew him: "Oh yeah, but did you know this?!"
I have come to realize that if I am carrying that trump card with the threat of dropping it at some point, I have not truly forgiven him.
To "release" and "forgive" is to tear up the trump card that I've been carrying in my back pocket. It is saying, "By the grace of God I am refusing to use that against you. I am going to give you what God has given me and I am going to trust Him to make things right."
Throwing away my trump card is not easy. It is letting go of the one thing that justifies that "I was in the right!" That's hard, but I have found these things can help:
- Go back to the gospel: God says I am to "forgive as I have been forgiven" (Colossians 3:13). God has forgiven me generously, mercifully, and graciously. How can I not forgive others in the same way?
- Remember what love does: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:7.
- Remember the currency of forgiveness: "Words are not the currency of forgiveness, pain is," writes Tim Keller. Jesus suffered in order to forgive me. Why should I expect that forgiving others will be painless?
At times I think throwing away my trump card means I lose. In reality, it means that God has won. It is the real indication that He has done his work in my heart.