Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace of God, for if you do there can spring up a bitter spirit which can poison the life of many others.
— Hebrews 12:15

Did you hear the story about the man who was bitten by a stray dog? There was concern the dog might have rabies, so the man was taken to the hospital for some tests. A friend of his heard about the incident and went to visit him. As the friend walked into the room, he saw the dog-bitten man writing furiously on a legal pad.

The visitor told him, “Rabies can be treated. You don’t have to write a will.”

“Will? I am not writing a will,” the man replied. “Just in case that dog had rabies, I am making a list of people I want to bite!”

Sometimes our righteous indignation gets out of control. Forget forgiveness. We want to bite somebody. We get bitter. We get offended and mad. This stance hurts us more than anyone.

Bitterness can consume us. Grudges can send us on a downward path. That is why we are called to forgive. But let’s be clear. Forgiveness does not excuse or ignore the misdeed. Forgiveness is simply the act of changing our attitude toward the offender. Forgiveness leads us to an openness and ability to be at peace.

Sometimes we feel that just seeing a particular person makes us angry. At those times, perhaps we are seeing too much of the wrong person. We should try to shift our focus away from the one who hurt us and set our eyes on the one who forgave and saved us. I read this quote a few years back:

“Relationships don’t thrive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are forgiving and merciful.”

In the final analysis, who and what does forgiveness help? It helps you. It helps your ability to be an effective minister to others as you share the grace of God.