"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."1
Forgiveness: The Power to Heal
Some years ago during a visit to Yellowstone Park, one writer observed that the only animal that the grizzly bear would share his food with was a skunk. It wasn't that the grizzly wanted to share his food but rather that he chose to. With one swing of his powerful paw he could have crushed the skunk. So why did he allow the skunk to eat with him?
Because he knew the high cost to getting even.
Undoubtedly he learned the hard way. Strange that we humans often aren't as smart. Sometimes we carry grudges for years, often repressing them from conscious memory, and end up hurting ourselves more than the ones we would like to get even with. We fail to see how damaging an unforgiving spirit is.
Physicians and counselors alike attest to the damage done by an unforgiving spirit. Some medical doctors estimate that the majority of illnesses they treat are related to emotional problems such as resentment, which is a lack of forgiveness. And counselors see the roots of bitterness reflected in depression, anxiety, and destroyed relationships.
I read one report of an astonished patient who was told by his doctor: "If you don't cut out your resentments, I may have to cut out a part of your intestinal tract."
Fortunately, the man took the doctor's advice. He had been nursing a bitter grudge against a former business partner. He went to see this man, resolved their differences, and forgave him. When he returned to the doctor, his physical condition had cleared up.
That advice isn't new of course. The greatest physician who ever lived, Jesus Christ, pointed out 2,000 years ago the importance of forgiveness. When he encouraged us to "forgive seventy-seven times," he was thinking of our emotional and physical well-being as much as our spiritual. In his book, None of These Diseases, Dr. S. I. McMillen reported that a forgiving spirit could save us from "ulcerative colitis, toxic goiters, high blood pressure, and scores of other diseases" including ulcers, asthma, arthritis, neuro-dermatitis, and heart ailments—all possible effects of resentment.
To be continued ... because forgiveness is a process, not an event!
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, if there is any unforgiving spirit in my heart, please confront me with this reality, and help me to resolve this so I am free to forgive others as you have so freely forgiven me. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV).
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