"The Gift of Forgiveness" by Joseph Scheyer

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." - Louis B. Smedes
My next door neighbor can be a challenging person.  From the time that this became apparent, I began thinking that God must have put him in my life for a reason.
In the first draft of this devotional, I went into many of the antagonistic details but then realized that my reaction and unforgiveness was the primary issue. For too long, I allowed the hostile actions to fester so that whenever he and I crossed paths, all I could hear was my own negative internal monologue. When I would take it to the Lord in prayer, the prayer was always for a change in his behavior. There was no humility in my heart and no compassion for my tormentor. Last fall, he and I got into a shouting match after a purposeful attempt to antagonize me… which obviously, on that day, succeeded. In response, I fired several volley’s of sarcasm, to mock him, in my anger.  Soon afterwards, I felt remorse for my role in that interaction because I lost all perspective and forgot who I really am in the vision of Christ.  I later apologized and expressed that I regretted my behavior in that unfortunate interaction.  I also asked for forgiveness. Sadly, my apology was profanely rejected and the concept of forgiveness seemed to not even register. What I received instead was a vehement dose of anger and hostility.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
When Jesus was being nailed to the Cross, he asked God to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Through the pain and suffering at the hands of His tormentors, Jesus chose to pray that God would forgive them. At that moment, Jesus displayed kindness, compassion, humility, mercy and love for each and every one of us. It was God’s Will that His Son die to deliver us. Those who crucified Jesus chose not to listen to the words that He preached because they were filled with anger and hostility. Jesus never fought back; instead he let the Will of his Father be done. Jesus loved us completely… and that is why he prayed: “Forgive them, Father!  They know not what they are doing.”  I can’t pretend to understand the depth of God’s Love for us or how to love completely and absolutely as Jesus did… but I am grateful for this beautiful example of what it means to truly Love each and every one of us.
I still, almost daily, receive a passive/aggressive dose of anger and/or hostility from my neighbor but gratefully, I do not always feel the need to reciprocate.  I am very aware that the only possible way to diffuse hatred is to repay the evil with good.  Even so, I have to admit that part of me resents this and wants to lash back even though I know that would only worsen the situation. I still have a difficult time turning off that negative, sarcastic internal voice but (most of the time) realize that getting even is no longer important. I do find peace in the understanding that I have the ability to forgive and can feel compassion. I am learning that forgiveness is not normally a one time event but more commonly a daily exercise in tolerance, humility and empathy. Through this experience I am also beginning to realize that there can be no compassion without humility. I must be able to humble myself before I can begin to see that my neighbor is suffering in ways that I cannot understand and so begin the process of experiencing compassion for this child of God next door. Lord I pray for the grace to continue to forgive my neighbor as many times as is necessary …thank you Lord for helping me to understand how I can be a better neighbor and a better human being.