The Freedom of Forgiveness

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The Freedom of Forgiveness

Pleasing the Savior brings release and peace

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For the past 10 years I have been holding a women’s Bible study in a village within the country where we serve. I try to give eight lessons over a two-month period, finishing up in May before the rains start and the farming season begins. It has been a struggle due to the oppressive heat and the huge number of students’ problems. Sometimes our numbers have dwindled down to just three or four others beside the woman leader, Amara*.

But Amara has been faithful. In spite of suffering persecution for choosing to follow Christ, the death of two young children, and illness, she has stood firm in the Lord.

Last year, at the end of our last meeting, she asked to speak to me. A team member and I listened, almost in disbelief, as she recounted a tragic story of betrayal and lies that had been going on in her family. This shattered woman could not hold back the sobs as she spoke of the humiliation and physical torment that she was going through. And then she asked us the question, “What should I do?”

Hearing her story and understanding the personal impact for her, I knew it would be impossible for me to tell her what to do. So, using Scripture I said, “You have followed Christ for a long time. Search your heart and decide to do what you know will please your Savior.” Quoting Ephesians 5:10, I explained that the verse tells us to carefully determine what pleases the Lord. “Don’t please yourself or others, but please the Lord Jesus and you will experience His peace.” After a time of prayer, we left—not to have any contact with this woman for a year when we once again arrived back in her village for Bible study.

Amara was the first one to greet us, all smiles, and looking happier than we had ever seen her. Afterward, we pulled her aside and asked, “So . . . what is going on with you? What happened with that situation?” Her short reply was, “I forgave. I knew that would please the Lord. He has given me a heart full of forgiveness.” Then she went off to greet others.

Needless to say, we were stunned. We couldn’t imagine what that decision cost her personally. What seemed so easy for her to say, we knew had come with much struggle and pain. But then another amazing thing began to happen at this Bible study. The next week we had three new believers. They had come to Christ in a neighboring village and Amara had invited them to Bible study. Each week we have added two or three women, some seeking to know more about Christ, and some who attend outlying churches. Amara came over to me last week and said, “We have 31 women here!”

Forgiveness. Christian singer Matthew West captures our struggle with it this way:

It’s the hardest thing to give away, and the last thing on your mind today; it always goes to those who don’t deserve. It’s the opposite of how you feel, when the pain they caused is just too real; takes everything you have to say the word.

He goes on to sing,

Forgiveness. It flies in the face of all your pride, it moves away the mad inside, it’s always anger’s own worst enemy. Even when the jury and the judge say you’ve got a right to hold a grudge, it’s the whisper in your ear saying, “set it free.”

In a simple word, Amara said what must have been the most painful thing to do, but the power it released in her own life was wonderful to see. We can only imagine what it is doing for her family and, as we watch the Lord bringing these new women into her group, we want to shout it over and over: “Forgiveness.”

It is an important reminder to search our hearts to make sure we are not harboring any hurt or anger or jealousy toward another. As Matthew West sings, “Forgiveness can even set a prisoner free, and there is no end to what its power can do.”

Forgiveness. Have you experienced the freedom that comes from forgiving someone? Have you seen the power that forgiveness releases in your life? May we be those who “get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, may we be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32).

* Name changed.

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