By Alex Anderson, Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church
I’ve gotten this call many times over the last 20 years, “Pastor, my spouse is having an affair, what do I do?” This question eventually leads to another question, “How do I forgive?” I usually start with this story.
While I was a volunteer pastor, many years ago, I worked for a short time as a junior partner to a very successful businessman. After a time I realized why so many before me had been unsuccessful in this position. This man was a challenge to work for, even for a minister. So I decided to end the relationship. As I sat in our last meeting to dissolve our partnership, this person went into a rage. He began making threats and was trying to renege on what he owed, which involved many thousands of dollars.
After the meeting I got into my car and while driving, anger, resentment and un-forgiveness began to fill my heart. I was enraged that we could not settle this like grown adults and that now this person, whom I trusted and even admired, was trying to steal from me. My family was young and growing and the money at the time was very important. But even beyond the money, I was hurt.
As I continued to drive I prayed and asked God to help me with how I was feeling. Although my feelings and immediate response were completely healthy and accurate based on the meeting, I also knew I did not want to stay in that emotional state. As I prayed I began to think of a triangle. God was at the top, this businessman was at the right bottom corner and I was as the left bottom corner. I saw God’s forgiveness going down from God to the businessman. I saw forgiveness and peace coming down to me on my side of the triangle. But something was missing at the bottom of the triangle between the businessman, and me. It seemed to hold back love and forgiveness not only to the businessman, but to me as well.
The triangle was completely connected on these two sides but was not between us. And there was no energy or love flowing. Then it hit me.
I was the one who could throw the switch to receive peace and wholeness in this situation. I had to forgive him. This would complete the circuit for the power of God’s grace and love to flow to both of us. It was all or nothing. But there was only one problem: I did not want to close the circuit so that God’s love could flow uninhibited. I was hurt and mad. I did not feel like it. So I did nothing…for a while.
I knew that I had the key to at least my restoration and peace, but I did not want to forgive him. I wanted to hurt him back. I wanted to be as mean and nasty as he had been to me. And I wanted him to pay out the nose for his actions. I was ready to sue him.
As I drove to various meetings that day, my mind was cloudy. I could not think straight. All I could think about was all the money this guy owed me and how mean and nasty he was. It was after getting back in my car following a very unproductive meeting that I realized I could not go on like this. I felt cold and numb inside and I did not like it. So I pulled my car over to the side of the road and prayed. I said, “God I’m angry and hurt at this guy and I have a right to be. However, I do not want to go on feeling like this. It is getting in the way of life. So I decide to forgive this guy right now. I give up my right to hurt him back. It’s not worth it. I ask you to forgive me for judging his motives and holding hatred in my heart for him. I also ask you to forgive him for being a horse’s ass. I ask you to bless and take care of him. In Jesus Name.”
My peace was restored and I have never missed the money. Oh, yeah! I also saw him 2 years later and gave him the friendliest greeting ever without any malice in my heart. You cannot control what others do, but you can decide to forgive them or not. It is your choice. One way leads to peace, the other to more pain.
If you are dealing with hatred towards someone right now, you hold the switch in your hand to freedom and peace. Just tell God, “I give up my right to hurt them back.”
To your spiritual health,
Pastor Alex Anderson
Author, Dangerous Prayers