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The power of forgiveness and loving your enemy

Jeffrey and Desiree Sherlock

By Jeffrey Sherlock

    I humbly offer this word of encouragement and share with you how the Lord has been working in my life. I pray that in sharing some of my struggles and how God is leading me through them that someone elses burden will be lightened.

   About 22 years ago I left the Marines a physically, mentally and spiritually broken person. Because of situations I had faced and the fact that I was now very physically impaired at 27 years old I had a lot of bitterness and resentment in my heart. Darkness seemed to surround me, and all of this was compounded by the place I now found myself, a place of helplessness. I had nothing to offer any employer. I couldn't keep a single thought straight in my mind and the pain and fatigue I faced every day were a shock to my system. Such physical challenge and disability were devastating to me especially because I had always been so physically active. My nights were filled with terrors so dark I was afraid to sleep and I woke up yelling, drenched in sweat.

   The fact I couldn't work pulled hard on my sense of pride; I had always been able to work hard and push past any problem. I felt useless to my family and to the world. My pride and self-esteem were struck yet another hard blow because I had to humble myself and ask the V.A. (Veterans Administration) for help; I had nowhere else to go.

   Bearing my soul to complete strangers who were indifferent and uncaring for my suffering added to the fire of bitterness ever building in my heart. I had served with honor, I had been promoted and given medals and awards for my service but now that I was broken, no one cared. I was now useless and disposable to my government, a liability. Though I desperately needed help, my integrity was always questioned.

  I was treated like a criminal who only wanted drugs, a beggar that no one wanted to acknowledge hoping that if they ignored me long enough I would just give up, crawl away and die and be one less problem. The humility that I faced pushed me deeper into darkness.

   The fires of hate burned bright in me and seemed to give me strength, though they were truly killing my spirit. People whom I blamed for the cause of my problems were the fuel to the darkness in my soul. They were the focus of my hate and bitterness and I now found myself filled with rage fantasizing about their demise. How I wished I would run into them in some dark alley and set things right.

   I dreamed of being a Dark Hero for the downtrodden, those who had been bullied, hurt or abused, those who had been murdered by evil men. I would get vengeance for the wronged in this world. How sweet would that be? My heart was so twisted by hate and bitterness. I still thought I was a good man, wanting to fight evil with evil.

   But now PRAISE GOD my story starts to change. Jesus and his great sacrifice for me always had a place in my heart. A flicker of light that pushed back at the darkness inside me. The Holy Spirit Who lived in me before all this happened had not given up on me. The prayers of my devoted family and friends who tirelessly interceded for me were being answered. 

   Jesus pulled at my heart reminding me of his great love for me. He showed me he was my strength and the hate in my heart was my weakness. I knew I had to make a choice and a change and surrender it to him. I was nowhere near forgiveness, but I surrendered my hate and asked God to make a change.

   Still years went by as Jesus worked in me. He gave me back my joy and I sought Him more and more. During this time of renewal I faced two major brushes with death, true miracles of God's mercy to me. Now the words I had read many times had new meaning to me. Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. God used these tragedies-turned-miracles to awaken the last in me that was still sleeping. 

   I didn't want to waste any more time; I had a hunger and thirst for God's Word. I sought His truth and found it on every page. It was as if all the words I read were written to me. I found new life. Now as I read in James 1:22 I didn't just want to be a hearer of the word, I wanted to be a doer. And as I read John 4:23 I wanted to be a true worshiper and worship the Father in spirit AND in truth.

   I examined myself and surrendered more. Eph 4:31-32 - Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. Wow here is that "forgive" word again. Then I read 1 John 2:9-11 - Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

   These people I had hated were made in God's image and he loves them as much as he loves me. The Bible says while I was yet a sinner—an enemy of the Cross—Christ died for me. God tells us: be holy because I am holy, forgive as I have forgiven you, as in the parable in Matt. 18:23-35. Then reading Luke 6:27-28 But to you who are listening I say, ("ok, God, I'm listening") love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.

   Jesus, I know you can do this because you are God, while on the Cross you asked your Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. But how can I do that? I am just a man. Then I was reminded of Stephen who while being stoned to death looked to heaven and said the same thing, forgive them.

   Ok, Jesus, I hear you, I want to see people as you see them. You see the beautiful thing they can be even while they are servants of the enemy. Help me love as you love and forgive as you forgive because I don't know how I can do this, how can I love my enemy. As I struggled over this, these words filled my mind. Eph 6:12 - For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. For the struggle is not against flesh and blood; that is how you can love these people, because they are not the enemy. They are bound by the enemy as you once were, but if you show them my love and pray for them, I can change that.

   Then I am reminded of yet another miracle, how Saul an outspoken oppressor of the gospel and persecutor of the early church became Paul the gospel’s greatest apostle. How God takes abortion doctors and opens their eyes and now they are the biggest voices for pro-life.

   I know in all this God changed my heart and helped me to not only forgive my enemies but to love them and pray a blessing over them and their families. This was a miracle!

   I also know that there are many people who have more reason to not forgive than I and that they have been hurt even deeper than I can imagine. But Christ died and rose again to set ALL captives free. If you’re struggling, a captive of hate and unforgiveness and are ready for freedom and victory but you don't think it's possible. Just start with surrender, give your burden to Jesus and he will make the change in your heart.