Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is home to the largest rodeo in the USA and it is the reason why huge belt buckles and bling for your jeans exists. EVERYONE gets into the spirit of the rodeo and sports their best cowboy/cowgirl hats and boots.
Each night, after the bulls and horses are put away, the rodeo arena becomes a dance floor and a stage is set for a headlining country artist. Last year Tim McGraw was the headliner and my brother-in-law had scored us some sweet floor tickets. Now being a Louisiana girl, I have seen Tim in concert before, but for some unknown rodeo reason, this particular night was “magical.” I cannot even describe to you how loudly my sister, Julia, and I screamed and jumped around like teenagers when he played “Southern Girls Rock My World” with all of Cheyenne looking at us like we were crazy. We didn’t care in the least.
But even if you’re not a country music fan (bless your heart!), you must have at some point heard “Live Like You Were Dying.” There are so many great things about this song, but the line that gets me every time is, “And I gave forgiveness I’d been denyin’.” Convicting, to say the least.
Have you ever had a small altercation with someone that ballooned into something bigger and was left unresolved? Or maybe you’ve experienced a deep hurt caused by a relative or close friend and the wound was left unattended and has now festered into a fine mess? Or possibly you felt wronged in a certain situation and you allowed a grudge to settle in, unbeknownst to the offender?
I am not here to say that your hurt is unjustified or that your unforgiveness is unwarranted. It most likely is. I am simply asking you to consider Tim’s wise words: are you denying someone your forgiveness? And if so, do you think you would be more likely to give it if you knew that your life would be ending soon?
Peter asked Jesus how many times we must forgive. Seven seems like a reasonable number, doesn’t it? I will forgive that person seven times and after that I am allowed to cut that person off from my forgiveness. But Jesus had another number in mind. How about seventy times seven?! (See Matthew 18:21-22)
Wait a minute, Lord. That sounds like endless forgiveness. But isn’t that what God does for us? Forgiving us over and over again?
What’s more is that a forgiving attitude is necessary in order for us to have an effective prayer life. Jesus said, “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” (Mark 11:25). That’s a sobering thought.
Forgiving others is something that God has been working on within my own life. It’s not always easy and I am ashamed to say that my flesh has gotten in the way more than once, but praise God, He forgives me anyway. One resource that has helped me tremendously on this topic is Pastor Chris Brauns’ book Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds. Pastor Brauns also opened my eyes to view the times that I have been forgiven by others as the blessing that it is.
So, I ask you the same thing I ask myself today. Is there someone in your life of whom you have been withholding forgiveness? Would you really want to leave this world still holding onto that grudge? Do you think that you have enough life left in you to forgive them? If so, seize the opportunity to live like you were dyin’!
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.