Animal behaviourists suggest that ‘elephants’ have long memories. In the wild, an elephant’s memory is key to its survival, and the herd it is in. When confronted with an unfamiliar elephant, they huddle together for protection. They are able to track up to thirty elephants at one time and will recognise other elephants as friendly even after being apart for several years.
Where am I going with this? Elephants are not the only ones who have long memories, so do human beings. Sometimes our memories are really good and wholesome but at other times, if we are not careful, some memories are gnawing at us like a cancer that will not let go of its victim.
Often, these ‘cancerous’ memories go back for years and are deeply rooted in bitterness. In other words, we have been hurt in the past by a person’s abuse, whether it be physical, verbal or otherwise, and we have never come to the point of dealing with the hurt it has caused. As a result, we tend to be unforgiving. The writer to Hebrews reminds us that, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).
Rev. Dr Albert Mohler in his exposition on Hebrews (Exalting Jesus in Hebrews), say that believers must be on their guard against the poison of bitterness. I couldn’t agree more for I have seen it derail people’s lives. Dr Mohler goes on to say, “bitterness is a deadly contagion and a sign of serious spiritual trouble. It’s an on-ramp to the way of sin, not to the way of righteousness…” (pg 203). It’s no wonder that Paul also exhorts the Ephesian believers (Eph 4:31) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Thankfully, bitterness doesn’t have to have the last word in our lives. Jesus came into this world to deal also with the sin of bitterness and when confessed and given to Jesus to deal with, brings healing into one’s life. It’s only when it remains unconfessed that it has the potential to do great harm.
Now that brings me back to having long memories. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should forget the hurt that has happened to us or that the pain isn’t real. Nor am I suggesting for a moment that it doesn’t have consequences. You cannot expect victims to just forgive and forget! In fact, in most cases that would be very unwise. However, since we have been forgiven much, we also forgive one another so that we will not miss out on the grace of God in our own lives. And if you have been the perpetrator, there is forgiveness that comes with godly sorrow and true repentance. And sometimes, it is wise to seek the forgiveness of those you know you have hurt. However, also be aware there are consequences to the pain and hurt we may have caused, which in turn may mean that it would be very unwise and irresponsible for the victim to forget.
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for coming to deal with our sin and restoring us by your grace into fellowship with Yourself and each other. Amen. JZ.