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Pastor Works through Resentment and Learns

Twenty years ago, [my wife Bonnie] and I went through what was for us the most difficult experience of our lives. We were sued by a young woman … [whom] we had tried to help. On several occasions Bonnie had gone over to clean her house, and we'd had her over for dinner. When we got that suit, it just felt like we'd tried to wash someone's feet and got kicked in the mouth. She blamed us for things for which we weren't responsible. I saw how lawyers work. They were constructing a case I didn't believe was there. That suit came after we had begun [teaching at a seminary], and I think I was down emotionally. Bonnie and I used to walk together and commit the situation to the Lord. In fact, every time we drive that way, Bonnie says to me, "Remember the walks we had?" I wish I could tell you I was pure and noble, but at that time, I would have been happy if this woman had gotten run over by a truck.

But love doesn't think like that. I found that as we prayed about it every day there came a time when I could no longer talk about it to the Lord. I'd say, Lord, you know what's on my heart, and you know the details. You do it. And then there came a time when I prayed, Lord, you know that I think she's done us wrong. But I may be wrong. If vengeance is necessary, you do it. And again and again I found myself thinking, I serve a God who has forgiven all of my sins, and they are many. And on the basis of that I can begin to forgive her.

I tell this story not because I'm an expert about how to show forgiveness, but I do know that when, in the power of the Spirit and the love of God, you work with it, you can take that truth about love off the page and see it work in your life.

Alfred Lord Tennyson said of Archbishop Cranmer: "To do him a hurt was to beget a kindness from him. His heart was made of such fine soil that if you planted in it the seeds of hate they blossomed love." I want that to be true of us. And we're better at it than we think we are, because the Spirit of love lives in those who put their trust in Jesus Christ.

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