Let me tell you about the worst fishing day I ever had. It was a beautiful day on the river in the north Georgia mountains. Nothing was biting, but that wasn’t what made it so bad. I was standing on the side of the river in my special spot with my fishing pole and a new lure. It was a type of fly, and on the back side of the fly was a three-pronged hook. Basically, it had three different sides with three different hooks. These hooks are razor sharp on the very tip, but then they are cut back, and there’s another sharp point on that hook, too. That second point is the one that once it goes in you can’t get it back out, which is the purpose of a fish hook.
I had the new hook baited, and my first cast was perfect. It landed on the other side, and I started slowly pulling it back through the water. I knew a fish was going to notice it any second and hit that new lure. Suddenly, the hook caught on a log in the middle of the river. My fancy new lure was stuck. I kept tugging on it, thinking maybe I could pull it loose, but it wasn’t budging. Finally, I decided I would have to break the line. I yanked hard enough to break the line, but the new lure came loose and flew back at me and shot into my leg. Two of the three hooks sunk into my thigh.
I was able to get the first one out rather easily, but the second one was in deep. As I tried to ease it out, the back hook caught. I was miles from civilization. My cell phone had no service. I had a fish hook deep in my leg, and it was still attached to the pole. My first thought was to yank it like a Band-Aid, just get it over with, and it would be out. I did that, but the hook wouldn’t budge. I thought about taking my pliers and cutting the hook, but then it would still be buried in my leg. I ended up having to grit my teeth and cut that lure out of my leg with a pocket knife.
I’m telling that story because it’s a perfect illustration of the idea that what we put out into the world comes back on us. I was throwing that three- pronged hook out trying to catch a fish, but I ended up catching myself.
Let me say it again: what you throw at people will come back on you. If you throw out anger, it will come back. Hatred’s sharp barbs will come back and cut you worse than you ever thought possible. Vengeance will destroy you. St. Augustine said it this way: “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,” and an old Chinese proverb says, “He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself.”
The good news is that it works the same way with love. If that’s what I send out, that’s what will come back. I can throw out peace, and guess what comes back? I can bless others, and blessing will come back to me. I can forgive, and that is what I will receive.
Peter once asked Jesus what was the limit. How many times can someone hurt you, he wanted to know, before you stop forgiving and retaliate? I’m sure you know what Jesus said. “Seventy times seven” was the response, and then Jesus told a story. There was a king and a man who owed him what would today be the equivalent of over a million dollars. The day came when the king called in the debt, and the debtor confessed he was unable to pay it. When the king ordered the man and his family be thrown in prison until the money was paid back, the debtor fell to his knees begging for mercy.
At this point, the king did something unimaginable. He said, “I’m going to erase your debt. You owe me nothing, and you’re free to go.” The debtor was shocked, but he thanked the king and walked out a free man.
On his way out, he encountered a man who owed him a fraction of what he owed the king. He ran over, grabbed the man by the throat and demanded the man pay up. “But I don’t have the money,” the man said.
“Then you’re going to prison,” the king’s debtor responded.
Servants of the king saw what happened and immediately reported it to the king, who called the man in and said, “How dare you? I forgave your great debt, but you refused to forgive a small one. For that, you’ll spend the rest of your life in prison.”
In other words, don’t stop forgiving. Forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive! I know it’s hard to do. In fact, there are times in which it seems downright impossible. Those are the times we need the third key to relationship restoration. It happens when I allow Christ to live his life through me. Romans 12 tells us how to do it:
So dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all that he has done for you. Let them be a living and a holy sacrifice, the kind that he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (1, 2, NLT)
Did you catch it? The secret is giving ourselves completely to him. It’s admitting I can’t do it and allowing God to do it through me.
If you’d like to read more, check out my book, Restoration: Heal Your Soul, Heal Your Life. It’s available for FREE here from October 17-21.