Charles Bracelan Flood’s book, Lee: The Last Years, gives us a poignant story from the life of Robert E. Lee. Lee visited the home of a Kentucky woman shortly after the end of the Civil War. The woman took him out to the remains of a grand old tree that stood in front of her home. Lee listened as she cried bitter tears and cursed the Union army for destroying the tree’s limbs and trunk. When she finished, she expected him to condemn the North or at least sympathize with her loss. Lee, instead, paused for a moment and said, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.”
Finish this sentence for me: “If I would be honest, I have never fully forgiven ………..” If no one in particular came to your mind, it’s possible that you aren’t carrying any old grudges or hatreds. On the other hand, if a name instinctively popped in there, even if you didn’t want it to pop in there, you need to address that issue in your life.
Carefully consider the following quotes from Jesus:
1. Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
2. Mark 11:25-26: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
3. Luke 11:4: “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”
4. Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
It is hard to overemphasize the seriousness of these quotes. If Jesus said something once it was important. How important, then, must a subject be for him to have hammered on it multiple times? You might not see your refusing to forgive someone as a big deal, but I assure you that Jesus does.
Just like that Kentucky woman who carried a hatred for the Union army because of what they had done to her tree, perhaps you are withholding forgiveness from someone who has wronged you. Let me encourage you to take Robert E. Lee’s advice. Cut that tree down and forget it. Stop visiting it every day. Stop thinking about it all the time. Stop shedding tears about it. Stop mourning over it. Stop trying to get others to join you in your mourning. Instead, extend forgiveness to the person, even if the forgiveness is undeserved. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this will make in your life. After all, spending hours on end staring at a ruined, bombed out tree doesn’t make for much of a life.