USA (MNN) — The holidays aren’t happy for everyone. Maybe you dread family gatherings because it feels like you’re Daniel in the lion’s den. Or, perhaps you have an “Uncle Fred” — the relative who’s rude to you throughout the year and then when Christmas rolls around, you have to “play nice” at the family gathering.
“Most people…have an ‘Uncle Fred’ that they probably haven’t dealt with in the past,” notes Glenn Dunn, the Director of Domestic Ministry for Set Free Ministries. “We hold back on the forgiveness because we believe that by forgiving an Uncle Fred, we’re overlooking what he’s done to hurt us, and that’s not really what God wants us to do.
“He asks us to forgive for our sake, not for Uncle Fred’s sake.”
Unforgiveness plays a major role in ongoing conflict, adds Jodi Deroo, Set Free’s Ministry Coordinator. It leads to a buildup of resentment and bitterness, and that’s not what God intends.
“He wants us to have peace and joy, especially over the holidays as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus and what that represents.”
It’s easy to justify unforgiveness when you are on the receiving end of injury or insult. However, immediately after issuing instructions for the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus gives this seemingly-strict ultimatum regarding forgiveness:
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
“Unforgiveness is an area that, if we do not work through, will create problems in our lives,” Dunn explains.
“I think the first thing is to recognize what forgiveness is, and what it isn’t. If we begin by that premise, then we can work through that and have a much happier holiday.”
Forgiveness is often easier in theory than in action, says Deroo. Nonetheless, it’s the standard God calls us to.
“In a scenario in which you have a lot of hurt or you’re going to be around people that have hurt you, the first step is to see them through the eyes of Jesus.”
How to get through the holidays
Just as we’ve been given grace, we have to give grace to others, Deroo says.
“It doesn’t mean that you have to set yourself up for more hurt. It doesn’t mean that we’re saying that what they did is okay,” she clarifies.
“What we are saying is that grace means we are giving them something…that says, ‘I am okay and I am going to put Christ as my center. I am going to release you to Jesus and I am going to be free to have a relationship with my family and have peace while I am in that relationship.’”
Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, and sometimes it can take a lifetime. Deroo says Set Free offers free biblical counseling and staff who will walk alongside you through the journey.
On Set Free’s website, one woman describes her journey in a testimony called “Freedom Through Forgiveness.”
“In addition to all the stuff that is really necessary in forgiveness, one of the biggest things is to pray for those who have offended you — just keeping them before the throne of the Lord and really wanting their healing.”
Header and story images obtained via Pexels.