We all make mistakes and have times when we need to apologize to someone or even forgive someone who has sinned against us. Something that I have found is that sometimes we make a decision or say something that was just simply a mistake due to our ignorance on a matter. There are also times when a person maliciously commits a sin against others and that's just flat out evil. Yet, God still commands us to forgive.
I have had all these things happen to me in my lifetime. Before I trusted Jesus as my Savior, I lived in a secular home, grew up in the gang populated schools of Los Angeles County, and I definitely lashed out on purpose towards others. Most of the time it was due to what was first done unto me. I wasn't the type to go out of my way to harm someone with my words, but I have hurt others with my tongue. Once I trusted Christ as my Savior I refrained from hurting others on purpose, but there have been times when I have said something without thinking first. I have needed to apologize to others and seek their forgiveness.
There have also been times when I have been hurt as an adult. When it has been by someone who is not of the family of God, it seems easier to forgive them. Knowing a person doesn't understand the love of Christ somehow makes it easier for me to forgive them. However, when a fellow sister or brother in the Lord hurts me it is much harder to forgive. Why is it that we have such a hard time forgiving our fellow Christians?
I can remember the first time I was deeply wounded by something a Christian friend said to me. It hurt so deep that I wanted to cry, yet couldn't get the tears to flow. My hurt quickly turned to anger and bitterness. I carried this bitterness for almost a full two years. The intensity of the pain faded, yet it was still ever present and would rise up in my emotions if I crossed paths with that person again. One day as we were traveling we stopped at a church on a Sunday. (Yes we go to church even while on vacation:O) ) The Pastor spoke about the 'old man' and the 'new man'.
2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (KJV)
He explained that we all have the old sin nature and that although we may dislike that 'old man' in a Christian, you can bet that he dislikes it about himself too. Then it clicked within me! Immediately forgiveness came and I wept with such relief. I was finally able to forgive and let it all go. I never spoke to that friend about the offense and this person never knew the harm that was inflicted on my heart. I can tell you for certain that God knew. Here I was at a church that was not my own, and God spoke to me about a two year old wound. The friend had used their tongue to say something that hurt me and I have no doubt it was just out a quick comment and never intentionally planned out to harm me on puropse.
Could I have forgiven had I spoken to this friend about the matter when it happened and not harbored bitterness for two years? Perhaps I could have done that, but in my mind and heart I just needed to walk away. I didn't want to face discussing the issue with that friend. My heart was quickly cut so deep that I couldn't see the way out.
There have also been times when I have been hurt by a fellow child of our King and I have felt that maybe God wanted me to not be as close to this person for a reason. Maybe God was working on their heart about something and I was in the way rather than being a help to them, maybe I could be hindering them or maybe they were hindering me and I wasn't aware of it. We won't always know why Christians part ways or have to settle on agreeing to disagree. Just as Paul and Barnabas disagreed in this passage from the book of Acts;
Acts 15: 36-41, "And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the LORD, and see how they do.
37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches."(KJV)
When I read this my heart aches. How can two Christians, brothers in Christ, come to the point where they disagree so much that they leave serving together? How can they not be able to work out their differences? It says in verse 39 that the contention between them was so sharp. These two had to agree to disagree, yet with the contention between them I have to wonder if they were being forgiving or if they continued to harbor bitterness. I do not find in God's Word where this situation was rectified. I don't know why it is that they couldn't come to an agreement, or why they had to part with contention in their hearts. I have had times when I had to agree to disagree with a fellow sister in Christ, yet I do not want there to be a time when it is done with contention like Paul and Barnabas did.
We must guard our hearts dear friends. I believe that it's okay to disagree, but not with contention in our hearts. I believe that we must do all we can to keep the lines of communication open and do all we can to keep an open relationship among ourselves and between our hearts and the Lord. I imagine God writing down the history of my life, as he kept record of Paul and Barnabas' journey, and I do not want it to be said of me that 'There was contention between Sisterlisa and another friend in the ministry, and they parted ways'. I would want to be sure I have done all I can to offer an apology or try to work something out. Leaving a wound open and not cleansed only leads to infections.
Let's try to always do what we can to ammend a broken heart among our fellow believers. May we not allow two full years to go by with a wounded uncleansed heart, as I did. If you have been wounded and were able to have peace and forgive in your heart then that is wonderful. However, if you feel that you have contention, may that not be so. I pray we will earnestly seek the Lord to make ammends with one another.
If you have been wounded and you have not been able to let forgiveness heal your heart then maybe it's time you have a heart to heart with the person who hurt you. They may not realize that they hurt you and once you share your grief stricken heart then that person can apologize. Maybe that's what you need to do in order to allow the forgiveness to take place. Take time to pray about it. Pray for the person, the situation, and for your own heart to have the love of Christ permeate throughout the situation. Seek God's guidance and timing in speaking to the person. You may find that you can have healing through a Christ led discussion with the person and healing can finally take place. You also may find that you have hurt them in return. Whatever the case seek the Lord and have His hand upon the situation and ask for wisdom.