If someone were to ask you who the ugliest person on earth was, what would your answer be? There was a popular movie called, Penelope, which is the story of a young girl born with a pig’s snout. There was also a popular program on television called, Ugly Betty. But neither of those people would qualify for being the ugliest person on earth because they aren’t real. They’re make-believe characters played by people who are not ugly.
Most of us have seen photos in magazines or pictures on TV of people who had horribly distorted faces and bodies. Some victimized by the atrocities done to them by others. Many, like the famous Elephant Man with a grotesquely deformed and enlarged head, spent their lives living in shameful seclusion because they were born that way.
However, none of those people come even close to qualifying as The Ugliest Person On Earth. That reprehensible distinction is reserved for someone else. Without question, the absolute ugliest person on earth is the person who won’t forgive.
The ugliest person on earth may also qualify to be the dumbest. Someone once said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
John Mason said, “Unforgiveness does a great deal more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than the object on which it is poured.”
Jesus taught His disciples that forgiveness ought to be our daily prayer and disciplined practice. He said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Elisabeth Elliot said, “When Jesus, nailed to a Roman cross, prayed, ‘Father, forgive them,’ He wielded a weapon against which Caesar himself had no power. Who can stand up to the force of forgiveness?” The answer is no one. The question is: Do you and I have the courage to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and forgive those who’ve wronged us - those who don’t merit mercy or deserve deliverance? From the viewpoint of Heaven, we don’t have a choice.
Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). According to those verses, churches are full of people every week who shouldn’t be there … at least until they’ve gone and extended genuine forgiveness to that brother or sister, son or daughter, mother or father, friend or neighbor from whom they’ve become estranged.
A teacher once told her students to bring a clear plastic bag and a sack of potatoes to school. She told them to think about every person they had a grudge against. For every person they refused to forgive they were to choose a potato and write their name on it and put it in the plastic bag. Then she told them to carry this bag with them wherever they went. They were to bring it to school each day, take it home each afternoon, keep it with them when they ate dinner and put it beside their bed when they went to sleep each night. Wherever they went they were to take the bag with them.
Over time, the bags became heavy and quite burdensome to the students. The potatoes became moldly, smelly and even began to sprout “eyes.” One day the teacher asked the students if they were tired of carrying around the bags. Every hand in the room shot up. She told them if they would forgive the people whose names were written on the potatoes in their bags, they could bring the bags to the front of the classroom and they’d burn them in a bonfire.
There was a rush to the front as each student came and dropped the heavy bag of old, stinky potatoes on the floor. When the students returned to their seats the teacher told them we often think of forgiveness as a gift to the person who has wronged us. However, forgiveness is clearly a gift to ourselves.
This week we saw one of the greatest examples of forgiveness when 18-year-old, Brandt Jean forgave Amber Guyger, the police officer who killed his brother. Not only did he forgive her, but he encouraged her to give her life to Christ and asked the judge if he could give her a hug. What he said and did shocked not only those in the courtroom, but millions of people who watched it around the world.
Forgiveness is clearly a gift to ourselves.
So what about you? Maybe you should make a phone call today or go see someone you haven’t seen in a long time because of something that happened or something they did to you. It may be your son, daughter, mom, dad, an old friend, sister, brother, work associate or neighbor. All you have to say is, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me” and then … watch what happens.
It will be one of the most beautiful experiences of your life.
© 2019. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.