(Excerpted from 40 Days of Discovery, a devotional series written for Fellowship Community Church in Centennial, Colo.)
I love that old Garth Brooks lyric, bury the hatchet, but leave the handle sticking out, because it is so stinkin' true. When somebody sins against us, we are naturally angry and hurt. But, we know that forgiving is the Christian thing to do. So (with trumpets sounding the great fanfare) we extend our most benevolent forgiveness to the poor supplicant. The offender is shamed by our grace, and our magnanimity is hailed amongst the surrounding throngs.
But just wait…if they ever even think of doing that again, our hand will be on that hatchet handle like a hawk on a field mouse—and you best take cover, because iron is going to fly!
Why do we live in this land of "mostly forgiving?" Why do we find it so hard to forgive and truly forget—to put the past all the way behind? It's because "mostly forgiving" fits very well with our overall belief of "mostly forgiven." Didn't Jesus say, "As God has mostly forgiven you, so you, too, must mostly forgive others?"
It is so hard to accept God's complete forgiveness. Maybe it's because His gift of mercy rarely comes with a can of Guilt-Be-Gone (believe me, if that stuff was available on the open market, I'd have a pantry full with a constantly rotating stock). So, while it's easy for Him to forgive us, it is extremely difficult for us to forgive ourselves. And, one quick act of unjustified emotional transference later, we find ourselves perceiving a God who just can't get over our checkered past or our spotty present.
However, we are different now that God has forgiven us. What we were then is not what we are now (even if we're just talking a week ago). Every prayer of confession, every act of repentance, brings us closer to the source of our forgiveness. And once we can stop dwelling in our own sinful past, it becomes much easier not to dwell any more on anyone else's sinful past. Once we truly accept that we are completely forgiven, we will finally be able to bury the hatchet with others—handle and all.
You've heard stories about King David: the man after God's own heart, the mighty warrior who took down a giant with a sling and a stone and conquered the impregnable Jebusite city and renamed it "The City of David" (Jerusalem), the great Psalmist who penned many songs of praise to God and the renowned leader who "shepherded his people with integrity of heart; with skillful hands." (Psalm 78:72)
However, David was also a man of human frailty, captured by lust, burdened with the guilt of adultery and murder, and broken to the point of desperation. When he reflected on his life before acknowledging his sin to God, David wrote, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer." (Psalm 32:3-4)
But later, David confessed his sin to God and experienced a dramatic change in his attitude, his emotions and his demeanor. His heart exploded with praise as he scribed the words of Psalm 103.
Read Psalm 103. List the number of the changes you observe in David, compared with Psalm 32.
What was the major cause of David's great change?
If God could "fully" forgive David, an adulterer and murderer, will He not also "fully" forgive you?
Take some time today to thank God for His complete forgiveness. Thank Him for not bringing up forgiven sins over and over again.
Then, ask God to search your heart for any overt or hidden grudges you may have against others—people you may have just "mostly forgiven." Confess those to the God who has fully forgiven you. Earnestly pray through whether there is something you can do to heal the relationship—even if you are the offended party. Ask God to give you the strength to follow through.