Competing in the finals this week on America’s Got Talent will be the first “spoken-word artist” (also known as a poet!) to ever compete on AGT. Brandon Leake, a follower of Jesus Christ who is bold to share his relationship with his Savior and how it has changed his life, so moved Howie Mandel with his initial performance that Howie pushed his golden buzzer automatically advancing Brandon to the live rounds. In the semi-final last week, Brandon shared an emotional poem addressed to his father, Tyrone, who had deserted the family when Brandon was quite young. Brandon’s performance is a full range of emotion from disappointment to anger to rage, pain and devastation and then to love and ultimately to forgiveness as he lays down his anger at the altar of Christ, at the foot of the cross where Jesus paid for ALL our sins (Tyrone’s, Brandon’s and yours and mine). Brandon says, “Tyrone, I forgive you so I can be free. This is bigger than you and me.” (It is a powerful performance. Google “Brandon Leake’s poem to Tyrone” and watch it.)
Brandon expresses what we all experience when we fail to forgive someone. We are in bondage to the person we will not forgive for what they have done to us. We can’t get them out of our mind. We become angry and ultimately full of bitterness. Our vision is also clouded in our relationship with others and our walk with God is hindered. “Unforgiveness, like strong acid, hurts the person on whom it’s poured; but it always does more damage to the vessel in which it’s stored” (Mary Horner). Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and then expecting someone else to die! When injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.
When it comes to forgiveness, there is no greater example than God’s forgiving us through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross to pay for our sins. We can forgive because He has forgiven us, Even as Jesus hung from that cruel cross to provide atonement for our sins, He spoke these words concerning those who had tortured him and put Him on the cross: “Father forgive, them; for they don’t know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). When we get a clear picture of how much we have been forgiven, it makes it easier to forgive others. The more I know of myself, the more I forgive others. If we refuse to forgive, we grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in us as believers, and our spiritual growth is hindered. Jesus said, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Mt. 6:14,15). That’s pretty powerful when you ponder it!
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, wrote: “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). “Never are you more like God than when you forgive . Never are you less like God than when you are unwilling to forgive” (John MacArthur). Forgiveness breaks the tyranny and bondage of the past and sets us free as well to continue our walk with God. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred and bitterness, and the waste of energy. “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world” (Marriane Williamson). There is more power in one act of forgiveness than in a thousand acts of hateful revenge. And for the Christian, we’ve seen from Scripture that forgiveness is never optional. We don’t get to pick and choose what and whom we want to forgive and what and whom we don’t. And, if we wait until we feel like it, we probably never will. Keep in mind, again of how we have been forgiven by God: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (which He lives in and through us)” (Ro. 5:8,10).
As you have been reading this, has the Holy Spirit been speaking to you about someone who hurt you that you have yet to forgive? If so, now is the time to do so. It begins with a promise to God and then you must keep that promise and not dwell on it anymore or bring it up or use it against them. The Holy Spirit will assist you with this, as it is not in our old nature to do so. C. S. Lewis said, “We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it!” But, when we practice it we discover personally what a beautiful, freeing thing it really is. It is the only basis on which we can be reconciled in a broken relationship, just as we have been reconciled to God through the forgiveness offered by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Or, maybe you have hurt someone else and never asked them to forgive you. Well, then it is your God-given responsibility to do that. It is always your move, whether to forgive someone, or to ask for forgiveness. That is one of the things that makes Christianity so unique. And it is all made possible because “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).