One of my earliest dreams for a career was to be a professional basketball player. We’re talking grade school here, long before I had to face the reality that my hands were too small to play the position I would have had to play at my eventual 5’9” height. And then there was the bad left knee that wasn’t properly repaired until I was in college. But I always loved playing basketball, and the one thing I had going for me was I had a good shot. For many years after my 20’s, I didn’t play much organized ball because of the knee issues, but I stilled loved to play “Around the World” or “H.O.R.S.E.” because those games favored good shooting. And then my severe knee issues prevented me from even doing that.
Fast forward to the past year, and I have returned to the court with an excellent artificial knee making that possible. By a return to the court, I mean shooting around and doing a couple shooting drills. It’s not much, but I love it! It takes me back to my childhood where I spent hours on our concrete driveway shooting hoops. However, what I realized quickly is my shot is terribly inconsistent. One day, I made 14 consecutive free throws, and the next I couldn’t make more than three in a row. Another day, I did my eight-shot rotation just inside the 3-point line in only 10 shots, but most days it takes me normally twice that. I realize it’s all in my release; I just can’t get it consistent. But there is such exhilaration, freedom almost, in shooting a “nothing but net” shot. That’s my motivation to get more consistent.
As I have thought about this, I realize there is a spiritual parallel to my shooting struggle. Over the course of my life, I have had trouble being consistent in my release of grievances against individuals, institutions, or circumstances. I am not one to seek revenge, to give people the silent treatment or avoid them if they have somehow hurt me; yet, in my mind I can still let things simmer way too long. I am much better than I once was, but I am far from perfect.
We are commanded to “forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13), which means releasing whatever anger, resentment, or bitterness we have toward another and releasing them from the need to remain forever guilty of what they’ve done to us. Sometimes, I do that really well, but other times it’s more difficult. I struggle with getting my “release” of others’ sins consistent.
In my experience and observation, I am far from the only one with this problem. Churches split, pastors resign and leave town without reconciliation, friendships end over a disagreement and never are mended, well-intentioned correction causes offense and resentment. The list could go on and on with examples of situations where the release is very poor or non-existent.
Regardless, the command to forgive others as Christ forgave us means that we must work on consistently developing a release of others for the hurts they inflicted upon us. Just as I am dissatisfied with my shots not going in, we all must be dissatisfied with unforgiveness in our lives. There can be no “I’m just ready to move on” without forgiveness and, hopefully, reconciliation. The reason is because it is incredibly dangerous. Jesus made very plain that, “. . .if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). If you are currently having a struggle with releasing someone from their sin(s) against you, then it’s time for you to forgive and, if it is needed and possible, reconcile with them.
Another aspect of releasing people is to stop trying to figure out a way to convict them, change them, or otherwise focus on what they need to do to get their lives right. Forgiveness does not always lead to change in the other person or to reconciliation. They may be hardened in their attitudes and behavior. In those cases, after forgiving them, we need to release them to the Lord, giving up our need to find a way to sort them out. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to convict someone of sin. We must give up our need to control or resolve the situation and release it to the Lord.
This one is a hard one for me. I am by nature a fixer and problem-solver. Given enough time, I tend to think I can figure out the solution. However, people are complex and often very hardened in their thinking and ways. Humanly, it is impossible to change them, so we need to give it up sooner than later. Then we will have our release and they will as well.
The truth is forgiveness is hard and reconciliation even harder. This is why there was such shock and amazement when the brother of shooting victim Botham Jean forgave the police officer who shot him while in his own apartment, and when some of the relatives of the Charleston church shooting victims forgave their murderer. In reality, it is practically impossible without the Lord. But with the Lord, all things are possible, as these two expressions of forgiveness illustrate.
I won’t be satisfied until my shot gets better through a much more consistent release. I
will keep working on it because I love the feeling of the perfect shot. In the same way, I hope none of us will be satisfied with a poor release of those who have sinned against us or offended us in some way. It is not the way of Jesus. To deny others release is to deny his release of us. Do any of us truly want to do that? If not, then let us call upon the Holy Spirit to give us the power to forgive and release. There is great freedom and exhilaration in that because it frees us from the bondage of bitterness and resentment. From experience and observation, we all need that.
© Jim Musser 2019