Johnny* built a fence, but not for penning animals.
Johnny’s fence was straight and didn’t enclose anything. It had no corners but coursed a straight line between his and his brother’s house. Anger over a perceived wrong built it, and unforgiveness staked the posts securely in the ground. When their mom died, his brother Red* paid for the family home and land, but Johnny thought he inherited it unfairly, overlooking him and the other siblings. To vent his unforgiveness, he built a fence and barely spoke to his brother.
As the years multiplied, Johnny dismantled sections of the fence and occasionally conversed with his brother. When Red died unexpectedly-at a much too premature age, Johnny lamented his unforgiving attitude. But it was too late. Red was gone and he was left with forgiveness he hadn’t expressed.
The prodigal son’s father didn’t wait that long: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20) In fact, he probably forgave his son the moment he committed the offense.
Asking for an inheritance before the father’s death was a serious cultural insult. So was blowing it all on wasteful living and in a foreign land. And the prodigal’s decision to return was probably more out of desperation than desire. But the father acted as if he committed no offense and restored him. He released him from a debt he owed for an offense he committed.
I’ve erected a few fences; ones that brought bitterness, vengeful thoughts, broken relationships, emotional torment and physical illness. Only upon releasing the perpetrator did I discover peace and healing. And this not after apologies. Most times they weren’t in the mix.
To experience healing power, forgiveness must be instant, repeated when necessary, and limitless. Let God direct you to those who need your forgiveness.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when we’re tempted to withhold forgiveness, remind us of Yours.
*Names changed to protect individual privacy.