How Can I Forgive When It Hurts So Much?
In Matthew 5, our Lord Jesus reminds us that under the old law of Moses, if someone hurts you, you were entitled to hurt that person (verse 38). It’s the Old Testament principle of “eye for an eye,” “tooth for a tooth,” geared towards survival and punishment. Such indeed represents our all natural tendency to seek revenge.
But in this same passage in Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus steps beyond the old law. Now, Jesus is saying: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other too” … “if your shirt is taken from you, give your coat too” … “if one demands you to carry his gear for a mile, carry it two” … “give to those who ask.” What an opposite to the old law!
After telling us all these, Jesus now calls us to do what seems to many a great human impossibility -- “love your enemies!” Jesus prescribes that the best way to heal from deep hurts is to love the one who is doing the hurting. He calls him or her an “enemy.” For Jesus, “loving your enemy” is an act of inner healing that sets one free.
I know, because I’ve gone through it myself! I knew God wanted me to forgive and surrender my right to hurt back someone. But, in my thoughts, I kept crying to God, “Lord, what if they’ll get away without being punished, what if they’ll just stomp over me?” I struggled with my thoughts of revenge to bring the ax crash down on the head of my enemy.
Then, the Lord reached out to my heart and spoke, “Angelo, I understand what and how you feel. The chain of revenge never ends if you take matters into your own hands. This is why your anger must be cut off with My grace and help. You can forgive your enemy because I have forgiven you. You need to forgive to protect yourself from your own revenge. Don’t worry, Angelo, I do the punishing. All I ask you to do is the forgiving.”
I did forgive, truly. And it’s because God has asked me to. The results? God gave me His best gifts of freedom, healing, and peace in my heart and soul. Injustice, revenge, and anger were stopped because I’d first taken the step of forgiveness. Even in times when confrontation was necessary to call a halt to continuous abuse and pain, I could feel the fruit of my deep-level, inner healing in Christ’s forgiveness as I was able to extend it to the ones who have hurt me so deeply.