Only One Way Out
By Harold and Bette Gillogly
Imagine yourself in a small prison cell. It looks familiar. You may have seen it before. And then you recognize it. It’s the prison called “unforgiveness.” You look around. There are several doors in the walls of your cell. Each one has a sign over it. The first sign you notice reads “My Right.” The cell is dark and miserably uncomfortable; you don’t want to stay there, so you try that door. But when you open it, there’s only a brick wall. You thought for sure this was the door to freedom. Afterall, you have a right to feel the way you do. What he did to you was unfair. Rotten. Selfish. You have every right to be bitter against him. To not forgive. To list every wrong over and over in your mind. But…the door leads nowhere. But you have the right to stay in the cell and blame him for your misery.
You look to the right and see another door. Its sign reads “Undeserved.” But as you pull the handle toward you, you notice at once there is only brick wall behind it. Again, the door looked so promising but doesn’t lead to freedom. It leads nowhere because he doesn’t deserve your forgiveness. Maybe if he came to you on his knees and begged. But no. His hard heart would never allow him to do that. So you stay in the cell and blame him for your misery.
You try the next door. It’s marked “Punishment.” Yes, this one must be the one. He deserves punishment. He deserves to suffer. And you surely are making him suffer by holding on to this bitterness. But again, this door leads only to a brick wall. But if you are to make him really suffer, you must stay in the cell and continue to blame him for your misery.
But wait, there’s another door next to this one. The sign over it says “Not Sorry.” Surely this is the door to take because, obviously, he isn’t sorry enough to be forgiven. So you should hold on to your unforgiveness until he shows that he is really, really sorry for hurting you…right? You grasp the handle and pull. But just like the others, you come face to face with nothing but a brick wall. So you sit down beside the wall and blame him for your misery.
You look across your barren cell. There’s one door left. The sign above it reads “Repent.” You approach the door cautiously. Me… repent? But he’s the one who…. Deep inside your heart a voice resonates. “Jesus already paid for his sin. And He already paid for your sin of unforgiveness.” A light suddenly comes on in the dark cell and you begin to understand that your sin of unforgiveness and bitterness is just as heinous as his sin of hurting you. In fact, your sin hurts you more than his sin. His sin didn’t lock you in this dark, miserable cell. Your sin of unforgiveness locked you here.
There’s only one door that leads to freedom. There is only one way out of the bitterness of unforgiveness. And that is to repent of it. To agree with God that your unforgiveness is sin and to ask Him to forgive you of it. And then to choose to forgive others the way God has forgiven you. When you do that, the door “Repent” will swing wide and you can walk free.