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 each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Forgiveness is not easy. It is a struggle to find it within my heart to forgive another person that has gone out of their way to hurt or harm me. But God commands it, so I try. If you read the bible, you can not escape the concept of forgiveness. Jesus lived a life of forgiving others. He directed us to "turn the other cheek" and not to live with an "eye for eye" mentality. He directed us to "love our enemies" and not just those that love us. In the Lord's prayer he instructed us to pray the following: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".
I like to think that I "turn the other cheek", "love my enemies", and "forgive those who trespass against me" but I don't. At least not in the way that Jesus did. If I was betrayed by my closest friends, rejected by my own people, beaten, ridiculed, mocked, and crucified, the last words I'd be saying in my last breath is "Father forgive them for they know not what they do!" My words would be a bit less loving I shudder to say.
For example, take my trip home from Chicago this past Friday night. It was a day after hurricane Floyd pummeled the east coast and I knew the plane back to Newark would be packed. I had a reserved window seat, and when I went to the agent she switched me from 5A to 4E. In my mind, this seemed like a vicious, cruel act on her part. How could she switch me from my beloved window seat to a dreaded middle seat (B & E seats are always in the middle)! I begged her to give me my reserved seat but she said the seat was already taken. Being the Christian man that I am, I kept my mouth shut and calmly walked away. But don't pat me on the back just yet. Under my breath I was cursing her up and down. I fumed for the next two hours awaiting the dreaded middle seat in a packed plane. As my row was called, I slowly approached the ramp in disgust, and boarded the plane. I glanced to my right and counted 4 first class rows. As I moved closer to row 4, I saw 4A, 4B, 4D, and 4E. There was no C. The agent had switched me to a first class seat - I was furious with her for the past hour when I should have been singing her praises!
I then stopped to think what Jesus would have done if he was in my position. It made me realize that not only do I not "turn my cheek" as He instructed, but there are times in my life when I'm the one throwing the first "punch".