Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?
–John 9:2

Before you can forgive, you have to identify who and what you are forgiving. But it is not always easy to identify exactly who is responsible for the hurt you have experienced.

Think of a hurt you have experienced. Perhaps it was an undeserved job termination, an unexpected illness, or a tragic accident. Now imagine that you go to the complaint department of a department store. As you enter, you see four windows to choose from, each with a name that is a possible target for your blame for the hurt you have experienced.

Window number one is labeled: Other People. Other people are easy targets of your blame. It’s easy to blame that unfaithful mate, that disloyal friend, that insensitive pastor, or that negligent doctor for the problems we have experienced. And many times they are responsible. God says we are to forgive, not because people deserve to be forgiven, but because of the forgiveness we have received through Jesus. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Window number two is labeled: Ourselves. Many of the injuries we sustain are self-inflicted. We are the primary ones responsible for that devastating divorce, that physical illness, or that job termination. Yet even when we are the culprits, we need to forgive ourselves. For example, consider a truck driver who falls asleep at the wheel, slams into a car, and kills a family. He can ask forgiveness from God and receive it. He can seek forgiveness from the family members and receive it. But he also has to deal with the fact that he is responsible. If only he had pulled over and taken a nap instead of continuing to drive. If only he had had a third cup of coffee. If only he had refused to work overtime, then the injury would not have happened.

Window number three is labeled: Circumstances. Sometimes it is just a series of bad circumstances that cause an accident. Jesus talked about a construction accident in Luke 13:4. He said, “Do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?” Jesus was saying towers fall on the just and the unjust. Bad things happen to good people sometimes.

The fourth window is labeled: Satan. Satan is responsible for many tragedies in the world. John 12:31 says that Satan is the temporary ruler of this world. Ephesians 2:2 says he is the prince of the power of the air, yet he’s not all-powerful. He’s a created being. He’s limited in what he can do. His power to destroy is considerable, but it’s also limited. Martin Luther said it this way: The devil is still God’s devil. Satan cannot do anything without the permission of God.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Who Do We Forgive?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.