The Little Black Book: A Lesson in Forgiveness

We want to! We try! We think we give it our best effort, but for many of us, we just don't seem to be able to rid ourselves of that painful feeling that comes from being wronged by another.

You know what I mean. A church attendee makes life miserable for you and your family. Eventually, the conflict leads to leaving a place you have loved. Life has not been the same since and that feeling of betrayal that leads to bitterness burns like a hot coal in the pit of your stomach. The remedy: forgiveness.

Or, for some of you, it has been more of a political issue. Your projected road to the top has been detoured by a denominational leader. You just didn't measure up to his expectations and you found the road blocked. Oh, you have gone on, but your spirit was broken and your dreams shattered. Nobody else really knows about it, but, inside, there is a sadness. The remedy: forgiveness.

Perhaps, for some of you, it's a more personal journey. Your father never gave you the kind of approval and love you needed. You reached for it, but there was little or no return. It may have been, and still could be, a spouse or a child who have not contributed the way you had hoped to your ministry. In fact, your progress was stalled because, as others viewed your family, they realized you were not a team. You go on, but there's an angry attitude that permeates your spirit. The remedy: forgiveness.

In my work as a pastor to pastors, I have seen evidence in the lives of too many of our colleagues that they carry around a "little black book" in their hearts that is filled with the offenses against them. The little book has almost become a security crutch. It represents people to blame, unacceptable circumstances and excuses for ineffective ministry. Many of our clergy friends have become paranoid, fearful, bitter and, at times, hopeless because they have been unable to deal, and ultimately cope, with the injustices they have suffered. The remedy: forgiveness.

If there's a message we must continue to preach and a sermon we must constantly live, it's that we must drop all charges and cancel any debts where and when people have done us wrong. If we don't, we will never live in peace or be free to live victoriously.

How can we forgive? We are granted the same power to forgive others that Christ uses to forgive you and me — the blood of Jesus Christ. We must be compassionate and ready to forgive, even as Christ has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32).

I urge you, my colleagues, to ask God to give you strength and courage to tear every page from your little black book and hand it over to our Lord. Our burdens become His burdens; He takes responsibility for them. Claim victory over your pain by living and walking as well men walk. By faith, commit again each day your hurting heart and your damaged emotions. Allow Him to ease your pain.

That little black book will become a millstone around your neck unless you make of it a stepping stone to total healing. The remedy: forgiveness.

But, of course, you knew that, didn't you?

Taken from Pastor to Pastor newsletter, Sep./Oct. 1999.
Article copyright © 1999, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Dr. H.B. London is the vice president of Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family and the author of numerous books on and for pastors. He served as a Nazarene pastor for over 30 years in several churches in Oregon and California. He and his wife, Beverley, live primarily in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have two sons and four grandchildren.