Beyond Bitterness

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If scripture says to bless and forgive even your worst enemies, who still qualifies for your anger? If you want God’s shalom — his peace, wholeness, fullness, abundance, and rest — you must forgive everyone who has ever offended you.

Upon hearing of the support of Athens in the Ionian revolts, King Darius of Persia is said to have tasked one of his servants with reminding him three times a day, “Master, remember the Athenians.” If true, Darius heard this reminder every day for years, stoking the bitterness in his heart and setting his mind on vengeance. Nearly a decade later, he sent his army to battle against Athens at Marathon — and lost. His bitterness accomplished nothing but misery.

That’s how bitterness works. It’s often said that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting it to hurt someone else. It doesn’t work that way. Anger, grudges, and bitter thoughts hurt no one but the holder. No matter how justified — and they very well may be — they are senseless.

God has an antidote for that poison: radical forgiveness. He exercises such forgiveness toward us, then urges us to apply it to others. Jesus extended it even to our worst enemies (Matthew 5:44). If you’re holding on to a grudge, ask yourself how it could possibly be an exception. If scripture says to bless and forgive even your worst enemies, who still qualifies for your anger?

If you want God’s shalom — his peace, wholeness, fullness, abundance, and rest — you simply have to forgive everyone who has ever offended you. There’s no other way. No matter how unreasonable such forgiveness seems, you need it. It’s a vital key to your happiness.

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