If someone really harms us in some way, the last thing we want to do is forgive that person. But that is exactly what Jesus tells us to do. If you do manage to forgive someone, wow, hang on to your hat, because it may well be the start of an adventure! Here are some 'adventures in forgiveness'...
Jesus said that we should pray: 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.' Ouch, that hurts. In that prayer, we are actually asking God not to forgive us unless we forgive our enemies! Yikes.
I have had at least two adventures in forgiveness. One was to do with a business venture we started up. Another business saw us as competition and did everything possible to get rid of our business, using some pretty dirty tricks. I was a new Christian, and I knew what Jesus said, so I started praying every day for our rival.
I prayed for his salvation, for success in his business, for good health for him and his family and all his workers, for salvation for all who worked for him - for every blessing I could think of to be on his head. Somehow it wasn't even hard, no matter what his firm did to us.
The adventure had a good ending. One of his executives showed up at the church we attended then. An altar call was made at the end, and he went up and prayed for salvation. He was a homosexual and a Freemason, and told Alan he had a lot of dark things to be forgiven. He is dead now, and I hope he was sincere and went to Heaven. It was such an amazing thing to happen!
That was not all. Our rival, instead of fighting us, bought the business, which enabled us to pay off all our debts. It was quite amazing and liberating, to be debt free.
Then there was another adventure. There too it seemed like enemies were surrounding us, and it was a serious matter. I started praying for them the same way. I told God I forgave them, and please would He bless them in every way - in their work, their families, their health, and would He please grant them salvation.
The outcome was different; the attack just stopped. I don't know if anyone came to faith in Jesus; I hope so. One day in Heaven I'll find out.
A good friend told me that he and his wife had to forgive the foolish person who drove so badly that their beloved son was killed in an accident. Somehow, God gave them the grace to forgive that person.
The wonderful thing is that, although their pain will never completely go away, they were released from the terrible anger one would naturally feel, and the results in their lives were far reaching and marvellous.
All I will say is that they have been enormously blessed in a myriad of ways, and they have been a huge blessing to many people in several different countries. They have touched many, many lives, and been true witnesses for the Lord. I doubt if any of this could have come about if they had been locked up in anger and bitterness over the loss of their son.
Then there is the physical danger to our own bodies if we don't forgive. We know that anger and bitterness release dangerous chemicals into our bloodstream which do nothing to the person we're mad at, but can harm us greatly.
But even harder than forgiving someone is asking someone to forgive us! Since becoming a Christian in 1981, I have had to do that with several people. 'Could you ever forgive me?' It's a very hard thing to say, but if that person can forgive you, it means they are released from a horrible burden of anger which could lead to permanent bad health for them.
Personally, after my adventures in forgiveness, I almost find it easy. I almost now think: 'Oh good, I have someone to forgive; whew! at least I don't have to ask them to forgive me!' It is almost a joyful thing, forgiving someone as the Lord forgave me.
Then there was a lady in England. She sat at her kitchen table and told her friend: 'If XXX came through the door, I would plunge a knife into his heart.' There was a lot of talk about forgiveness, and she just would not, so the friend went round the table and knelt down in front of her, begging her with many tears to forgive the man she hated.
She started to laugh and kept telling her friend to get up off the floor, but the friend said: 'I am not getting up until you forgive XXX. I was worse than him, and God forgave me, so you can forgive him.' She kept laughing and refusing to forgive, but in the end she suddenly said: 'Oh, all right, I forgive him.' And she really did forgive him.
She was released from decades of murderous rage! She even became friends with him! It opened up a whole new life for her.
Do you have anyone to forgive? Are you full of anger and bitterness? Are you boiling over with rage at someone? You are hurting your own body. Just think of all that adrenaline swirling around your system, and goodness knows what other chemicals. You need those chemicals if you're being chased by a bear, but not if you're sitting at home getting into a stew about someone who hurt you!
For your own sake, if you are boiling mad or simmering with resentment at someone - make a decision to forgive them. You have free will; you can decide to do this. God can forgive you, and you can forgive too. It will bring you peace, and it may open a whole new future for you!
(And of course this works brilliantly with money too! If someone owes you money and is really struggling, just remember that the merciful people will receive mercy back. Personally, I need all the mercy I can get! )
So...if you have an enemy, can you forgive them today? Can you have mercy on a debtor? What a glorious time lies ahead if you take this path, this narrow way, of doing the things Jesus did - forgiving people who do not deserve forgiveness, of having mercy on people.
Here is a prayer: 'Dear Father in Heaven, I am so disgusted at so and so. I just can't stand them. They are horrible and they did this and that and I just hate them. But I see in the Bible that You died for sinners and you forgave the very worst of sinners. Even in the Old Testament, You were still the God of mercy. King David, who committed adultery and then ordered the murder of a good man... David was completely forgiven when he repented, and he will even have a high place in the Kingdom reign of the Lord Jesus.
'So, dear Father, I now forgive so and so. And I not only forgive them, but I ask You to bless them. In Jesus' holy Name I pray. Amen.'
If you prayed that, do not be surprised if things start to happen. It might take some time, but hang in there. God is not deaf when you pray like that. You too might see some adventures in forgiveness.