Probably you know what it’s like to have people you don’t actually know, but who you know of, because you move in the same circles and you have a lot of common friends.
Having been missionaries in Eastern Europe for many years, there are many people whom my wife and I don’t know personally, but we know of them, because we’ve been in the same places at different times, or we’ve met once or twice before.
During my recent trip to Ukraine, I met one of these people: a long-time missionary in Kyiv named Cara Denney. On this trip, however, I did get the chance to spend some time with Cara and really enjoyed getting to know her. We have a lot of friends in common, but this was the first time we’d ever really talked.
As Cara was telling me part of her story, she said something that was very profound: she was telling me about how she had a strained relaitonship with her mom for many years, but after she became a Christian, she was able to forgive her mother in light of how Christ had forgiven her.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
It was a few years after that, that her mother approached her, and finally apologized for the pain and suffering she had caused Cara earlier in her life.
Now here’s the good part: Cara told her mother at that point, “Mom, I forgave you years ago!” — to which her mom replied: “I know. That’s what gave me the courage to say, ‘I’m sorry’!”
“I forgave you years ago.”
“I know, that’s what gave me the courage to say ‘I’m sorry.'”
That story reminds me of a few things:
- It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
The fact of God’s love for us displayed in Him acting to save us through Christ — while we were yet enemies! (Romans 5:10) — shows us that God deeply loves us, and this kindness and love gives us the courage to come to him and confess our sins, knowing that they have already been dealt with in Christ and that we will be welcomed in and received with open arms by the Father.
- You don’t have to wait for someone to say they are sorry in order to forgive them.
Some people will never say they are sorry. But if you hold onto resentment against them, you will be the one who suffers, not them! It has been said that holding onto resentment against another person is like drinking poison and expecting to other person to die. In the end you are only hurting yourself. In order to be free, you’ve got to forgive that person for what they’ve done against you, whether they apologize or not. And who knows, maybe like with this woman, the fact that you have already forgiven them will be the thing that gives them the courage to say, “I’m Sorry.”
After all, God is the judge, and Jesus has already died for that sin – which means that justice will be served and/or has already been satisfied. Knowing this gives us the strength and the freedom to forgive.
Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting to other person to die. In the end, you’re only hurting yourself. Forgiveness sets you free.
For more from Cara, check out this article she wrote for calvarychapel.com: Where is God in the Conflict With Russia & Ukraine?