Do you remember the days of gramophones and those smooth circles of black vinyl, each inscribed with its tiny modulated spiral groove? I had a large collection of them, spreading across my teenage shelves. LPs. Long Players. My pride and joy.
And somehow that was the first thing that came to mind when I read this verse this morning in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love keeps no record of wrongs…” As I said, I was quite pleased and proud of my record collection, as if it somehow defined me. I found it hard to let those records go.
But what about my “record of wrongs”?
I suppose everyone has one. It’s the list of things that have been done against you. It’s the memory of hurts received, grudges harboured and held, wrongs committed and slanders spoken.
And if I’m not careful, I become defined by that old dusty collection. But “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
A “record of wrongs” is like a stagnant pond. The freedom of flow has been stopped up, and the water has become dirty, stinky, disease-ridden, poisonous, and deadly.
The trouble is that we still drink from this bitter water, because every now and then something will bring an old hurt to the surface and we will “drink” it all over again. And we experience its pain anew.
No matter how strong you want to be, you can never subdue the pain that comes with the grudges you refuse to let go. In its simplest terms, to vary the metaphor:
The wound never heals until the grudge is gone.
It is not that you forgive because the one who wronged you deserves it. If you think that, then you misunderstand the point of forgiveness entirely. The only cage that a grudge creates is around the holder of the grudge. Forgiveness is not saying that the person who hurt you was right, or has earned it, or is allowed to hurt you again.
All forgiveness means is that you will carry on without the burdens of rage or hatred. Don’t keep that record on your shelf.
Nelson Mandela is credited with saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
If you want to get even with people, get even with the people who have helped you. Do it by helping others. Pass it on, pay it forward. As for those who’ve hurt you. …forget them and move on.
“But I just can’t !”
There used to be this thing with 1 Corinthians 13. My Sunday School teacher used to say, “Take out the word Love and put your own name there.” OK so, “Ken is patient, Ken is kind. Ken does not envy, Ken does not boast…” It’s difficult to go on with this without feeling mildly nauseous. The truth is that no one matches up.
And no one can forgive either.
No one except Jesus. That’s what the Cross is all about. “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” The truth is, as C.S.Lewis said: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable [in others] because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
I know that, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself along with the others, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward at all.
Here’s a favorite passage of mine, from Paul Young’s The Shack:
“Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat……Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established………Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation………Forgiveness does not excuse anything………You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness……”
We must forgive them. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to be friends with them, we don’t have to send them hearts in text messages, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don’t we are tying rocks to our feet, and it will be impossible to move forward.
The willingness to forgive is a sign of spiritual and emotional Growing Up. Imagine a world filled with people ready and willing both to apologize and to accept an apology. Is there any problem that could not be solved among people who kept no record of wrongs?
Lord, let me be the one who nurtures and builds.
Let me be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart; and one who looks for the best in people.
Help me to leave people better than I found them. Let me freely release my “record of wrongs.”
In Jesus’ name.