“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31
Trees teach us all we need to know about forgiveness. Every fall, the leaves on deciduous trees turn shades of yellow, orange and red before they fall to the ground to fertilize the earth. Those trees sit throughout the winter, bare on the outside, but on the inside sap courses through its limbs preparing for Spring. When the tilt of the sun changes, grass grows, and flowers bud, trees begin to sprout healthy green leaves that will bask in the warm months ahead. Come fall, the cycle begins again. This is how we should approach forgiveness, by allowing offenses, slights, deeds done to fall from us, and to allow the experience to produce a testimony that will encourage others.
In II Corinthians 5:18, the Bible clearly states that God has giving us the “ministry of reconciliation”. To reconcile means to restore relationship, and the first step along this journey is forgiveness. Forgiving is probably one of the most difficult things to do because it requires you to release the offense of what was done to you. We are only human, and, as humans tend to do, we allow negative experiences to hold us in the past. So, on the outside you may be 40-years-old, but emotionally, you are still that 12-year-old that was hurt by a family member, the 25-year-old that was jilted by a lover, or that 30-year-old that was assaulted by a stranger. Forgiveness means that you must do as Ephesians 4:31 commands: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” and release the experience. But HOW?!
What’s at the Root? Roots are very important to trees because they are its source of nourishment. Without them, these organisms will die. Roots are also very important for humans. Unlike trees, our roots are not literally in the ground, but in our heart and soul. In order to forgive, you must examine your roots. There is a root reason why you are so angry, why you turn to alcohol, food, and risky behavior to help you cope. That root reason is unforgiveness.
Once you realize that your reactions are not just reactions, but actually retaliation against your experience, then you are ready to rid yourself of your bitterness, anger, slanderous speech and malice. What did you say? In other words, once you accept the fact that you are harboring unforgiveness about an experience, then you are able to look that experience in the eye, see it for what it was, and release its hold on you. This is forgiveness.
Release allows forgiveness, and forgiveness allows love to flow. Love is the sap that runs through your veins and produces the fruit, the life God wants you to live. This love is how people forgive those that assaulted them, those that harmed them, those that did things to try to damage their psyche. This is why those who release and forgive are able to share their experience with others who are struggling to forgive.
Forgiving is freedom because, through it, you will become fully “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17). This is when you will know “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19). Forgiveness releases YOU from the past, making you no longer a slave to what happened. That horrid experience that you survived will become the testimony that just may save someone else’s life.
It’s time to let it go. Release it.