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If you ever sat in Sunday School (or in my case, Sabbath School), you probably heard a preacher tell you to lay down your burdens. "Just ask God to forgive your sins and you just lay them down at Jesus' feet and all your burdens will be gone."
The only problem with those instructions is that people don't carry just one type of "sin" burden. It's all well and good to lay down your own misdeeds and get them forgiven, but what about all those sins that were done against you! Betcha you forgot to lay those down when you laid down your own crimes and misdeeds.
If so, it's not surprising. Most of us have a much easier time accepting forgiveness for our own mistakes than we do in forgiving the sins of others, especially when the one who sinned against you either "got away with it" or "never asked you to forgive them".
And that's a real sticking point for some of us.
"Well, how can I forgive him when he doesn't think he needs to be forgiven?" you ask patting your foot in exasperation. "So and So really hurt me with that gossip. My mother spanked me totally without justification cause it was really my sister who did it and she still won't admit it!!"
The really sad thing is that too many otherwise intelligent Christians simply box up all that wrongdoing and tote it around on their backs all the live long day. It's usually not hard to get them started on the contents of the box either. They seem to get a perverse sort of relief out of setting down their box and dragging out the sins-committed-against-them for a quick public viewing. It's like there is a little red button on their bellies and if you push it, all the sins-committed-against-them for their entire lifetime come spilling out of the box. Some people carry that burden of sins-committed-against-them for so long, the recitation takes on a rigid quality, like an old phonograph record that's been played over and over till it's almost worn out.
How miserable is that to be so tied to the sins of others that it spoils your own joy? What's the solution? Elementary.
Forgive AND FORGET ABOUT IT.
"But, they've never asked for my forgiveness and they have to do that before I can forgive them."
Really? Want to show me that in the scriptures (go ahead, check out the KJV, NEB, NKJV, The Jerusalem Bible, the Torah and the Koran too if you want)?
From the cross, Jesus said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do!"
Anybody see any Roman soldiers hanging about the foot of the cross to say "I'm sorry"? No? When God sent his son to save us, he'd already forgiven us. All we had to do was accept it.
"AHA!" you say. "So when they ACCEPT it, I forgive them!"
Nice try, but no cigar. The forgiveness is already extended to us. It's a done deal. Bought and paid for! Take it if you want.
If we emulate God, then, we should forgive those who wrong us, even before they seek forgiveness; right now, as soon as possible. If they ask for it, we've already given it and they accept it as their own. No conditions. No, "Let me think about it." Just say, "Oh, that's already done," turn around, take it off the shelf, and hand it to them already wrapped up with a bow.
There's a good reason for doing it that way.
The beauty of all this unconditional forgiveness, is that a sin-against-me, that I have forgiven AND FORGOTTEN, no longer has any power to make me miserable. It no longer defines me. It no longer makes me into a bitter, angry someone that I don't want to be in the first place.
And it doesn't work to say you've forgiven the sins-done-against-you, if you place them back in the box and carry them around on your back all day so you can take them out and obsess over them again should the mood strike you.
Just dump the box!
All of it.
Put it where the sun don't shine!
The deepest hole you can find....
"Oh, but isn't it bad to just let them get away with it? Isn't it shameful for me to let them think there are no consequences for their actions?
In a word, "NO!"
God doesn't ask us to be smarter than evil, nasty people who may have pulled one over on us. He doesn't demand that we see it coming. Sins committed against you do not accrue to your account, they accrue to the account of those who actually commit the sins. You are not to blame because someone mistreats you, lies to you, betrays you or swindles you out of your life savings. You are not shamed if someone "gets you". We are lambs among wolves and God knows that. You put first aid cream and a bandage on a wolf bite, you don't spank the sheep for getting bitten.
You cannot carry around that box of sins-that-were-committed against you and expect to ever be fully happy. The box needs to be buried or burned and forgotten. Never speak of them again for they are forgiven. God provides a good example of how to do that when he forgives your 'sins-against-Him' by casting them into the depths of the sea and forgetting them.
When you ask God to forgive your sins, He says, "Already done!" In your case, when someone who has harmed you says, "I'm sorry," if you've pitched the box-'o-sins already, then you too can say, "Already done. I don't even remember it anymore."
And when that box of sins-against-you is well and truly tossed away and forgotten, it no longer has any power to make you miserable and unhappy.
Now that's laying down your burdens the way they ought to be laid down.
That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoe-making and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse. -Mark Twain