Several years ago Jonathan and I led a study on forgiveness in our church. I thought I knew most of the verses, and thought I understood it. In the midst of our teaching, God asked me to put it into practice.
We lived in a townhouse and shared a stoop with our Christian neighbor. (I'll call her Jane.) She didn't get out very much and her husband wasn't home most of the time because he was a truck driver. I would visit with my girls sometimes and Jane loved to paint their nails!
One day, she just flew off the handle and started yelling at me. My kids were too noisy, I was a terrible mother, etc. I was crushed. I really didn't know what I had done. My children were pretty well-behaved and didn't make that much noise. She had been fine with them for a long time before this encounter. So, even though I had not done anything wrong, I still didn't speak to her for months.
Around the same time, we discovered our area was having a skunk problem. Almost every evening we would realize skunks were outside. How did we know they were outside? We could smell them! You know the funny thing about skunks? When they feel threatened they react by spraying and it has a very noxious odor! The skunk doesn't care who or what they spray. They are trying to protect themselves. However, their "fragrance" touches everything they come in contact with!
I began to realize that is what happened in my relationship with Jane. I wasn't really her target. Maybe she was having a bad day, didn't feel well, or missed her husband. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
During the study on forgiveness, I realized that God wanted me to forgive Jane. I really didn't want to do it, but one day I came home and there were 2 bottles of nail polish on the ground between our cars. I knew they were hers and that God had ordained this moment in time for me to offer forgiveness. He wanted to use me to spread some new "fragrance" in our relationship.
I went to her door shaking. I asked for forgiveness and she granted it. I learned a lot about forgiveness that day. Forgiveness is not an option, but a way of life and a command. We need to offer and receive forgiveness in order to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't have to "feel like" forgiving, I just need to do it. It's more than just apologizing. It's feeling sorry for what you did, or allowed to happen AND making a difference going forward. A change in attitude and actions is involved.
I can't say that our relationship was totally restored, but I was at peace, knowing that I had done what God asked me to do.
Hebrews 12:14a says “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone...”
If we make the effort, I believe that this Scripture will be true in our lives:
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us spreads and makes evident everywhere the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him.." II Corinthians 2:14 (AMP)
Which will you choose? The skunk or spreading the sweet fragrance of Jesus everywhere you go?
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