“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14 – 15). “It is amazing how I can now read this like, many other Bible texts on forgiveness over and over again without feeling any sense of guilt. On this matter of forgiveness, God has literally confronted me on several occasions largely through sermons.” Tsoeke gladly said as he began a recollection of his long standing struggle with un-forgiveness. From this, God had given him no rest. And all the while he thought himself an upright and blameless person in all things save this small matter of his unforgiving heart towards his own dad. So I asked him, “Please, how did you overcome your challenges with unforgiveness? One tear drop was followed by another, unable to hold back Tsoeke’s eyes were soon overflowing with tears rolling over their cheeks. My question seemed to have touched a sensitive nerve.
He began his explanation: “You know, a Christian is required by God to obey Him in every area of his or her life. Our God is just and cannot be mocked. He will judge fairly and righteously by His Word. Nii, the fact that I don’t steal, fornicate, lie, masturbate nor covet does not guarantee that I would inherit the Father’s Kingdom, when I am faced with a real struggle to forgive. Remember the road is still narrow and a few find it”. “With a forgiving heart, I would have found myself in the kingdom of Heaven when my vehicle skidded off the road and ran into a tree in a near-fatal road accident. Here I was at a place I could describe as between life and death — quiet and dark — breathing heavily enough for the sounds to interrupt my thoughts. It was at this unknown place that I clearly heard the voice of God. HE, in mercy had spared my life. HE reminded and commanded me to forgive the one against whom I held a grudge since childhood, always finding my heart bankrupt of the willingness to forgive. I simply could not let go: Why is the hurt so painful? Is it because the perpetrators are so often the closest people to us? They are not strangers, whose presence in our lives is as short-lived as necessary. No, they are always with us. I harboured so much pain that my heart had anchored far away from the point of forgiveness. But when I heard God speak of my unforgiving heart at that moment, I looked back and felt more brokenness. A brokenness that set me on the path toward forgiveness. I earnestly petitioned Him for a second chance with all my heart knowing exactly that I was at the Hebrews 9:27 crossroads: “just as man is destined to die once, and after that, to face judgement”. My encounter brought me to the place beyond mercy and grace, where my heart became laden with a new fervour to reconcile, to lift anchor and set sail into the waters of forgiveness and love. I regained consciousness and opened my eyes to realise I was in a taxi with others being rushed to the hospital. It was then I realised that God had met me and given me a mission – to forgive.”
From then, I began to notice my strange inability and struggle to pray for my brothers. Unforgiveness had made me selfish, always only thinking about myself, even when I prayed. This incident changed my pattern of prayer and my singing unto the LORD. No longer are my prayer self-focused. Instead, I pray for everyone knowing that someone somewhere would benefit from my prayer. I asked God to forgive me for not praying for others; and I also forgave myself. Nii, the heaven and hell that we read and hear about is real but so are all of the commandments given us in His Word. Every one of them is relevant and important to the believer. If they weren’t important, they wouldn’t have been given. We ought to embrace the scriptures and make every effort to apply them to our lives.”
It’s refreshing to forgive. You cannot drink poison and expect another person to die. You can’t harbour unforgiveness, pain, anger, hatred and expect the one you are harbouring this against to be affected. May God who has helped me to forgive make His strength abound much more in your life as you set out working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.