Forgiving Those Who’ve Hurt Us
When Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army, Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” Genesis 26:26-27
Years ago, I met with an individual whom I knew socially, but in the context of this particular interaction, he was doing his job, which put him in a position of some authority over me. It was an unpleasant experience which hurt and angered me. You’d better hope that you never need my services in the Emergency Room. Then I’ll be in charge. It was a dark, terrible thought, which I was able to abandon once my fury cooled. I did in fact, eventually provide medical care for this individual and I’m able to say that I was kind and professional. Still though, I remember that evil thought – Just wait until I have the power. Then you’ll be sorry.
It isn’t easy to forgive those who’ve hurt us. It’s our nature to desire revenge. At minimum, we feel that it’s our right to hold a grudge. If the one who hurt us is ever in our debt or perhaps seeks reconciliation, we cling to our resentments. I’m not going to forget what you did. In hanging on to the hurts of the past though, we make ourselves sick. You’ve heard it said that resentment is like drinking poison, hoping it kills the other person.
Today’s passage provides an example of a peacemaker who was able to let go of the past. In the story, King Abimelech had expelled Isaac and his people from his land, but Isaac prospered, being blessed by God. Abimelech saw God’s hand in Isaac’s life and grew to fear him. So, King Abimelech approached Isaac, seeking peace and an alliance. Finally, Isaac had the upper hand. Here was his chance to take revenge. Instead, Isaac made them a feast, and they ate and drank. In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths. (Genesis 26:30-31). Isaac could have sought retribution but instead, he forgave and moved on with his life.
We will never forget the hurts of the past. We may even have to maintain healthy boundaries with those who’ve hurt us. For our own sake though, we must always act righty, doing what it takes to forgive and live at peace with those who’ve hurt us. Clinging to resentment and unforgiveness only makes us sick. Even if the other person never repents or asks forgiveness, we must grant it. Forgiveness isn’t about the other. We’re responsible only for ourselves. If we desire to experience joy and peace, then we must do whatever it takes to let go of our resentments.