Cleaning the Old Battlefield
It had become a war zone all over again. Acres of once-luscious pine forests had turned to ash. Four hundred homes were obliterated or rendered uninhabitable by the scorching blaze. Peals of crackling thunder echoed through the country as landmines detonated. Bullets popped back and forth for hours on end. A dense cloud of sulfuric smoke loomed over the land. And as always, people ultimately paid the price—a significant number were injured, some went missing, and worst of all, seven people died.
This was no ordinary war, however, since the bearer of blame was an act of nature. This war zone was created by a wildfire. According to the New York Times, a wildfire burned out of control in Ukraine last October, and as it burned through green hills and dry woodland, remnants of an old conflict reignited. Because of the heat, thousands of lost bullets, unexploded artillery shells, and anti-tank mines erupted. The fires of war rekindled because the fragments of an old war were never properly removed. The rump and remains of past battles that were forgotten and neglected eventually reignited and started another kind of war.
And the same thing will happen to us when we fail to clean up old battlefields of our past by forgiving those who have trespassed against us. You’ve had bullets of harsh words and hurtful comments fired at you before, haven’t you? I’ll bet a few grenades of slander and malice have been tossed towards your trench a time or two. If you’re like me, then you’ve also had landmines of betrayal scattered on your path by those you thought you could trust. We all have an old battlefield with someone that we need to clear up—and the way you do is through forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not forgetting the battle ever happened and it’s not pretending as though it didn’t. Forgiveness is looking at someone who has wronged you and saying, “What you did was wrong—these bullets and landmines are yours—but I am clearing it up. I am not holding this against you. I am absolving you of what you’ve done. And I’m cleaning up this old battlefield so it doesn’t reignite in the future.”
The Lord Jesus commands you to do this. He stated that you should forgive your trespassers every time you pray (Matt. 6:15; Mark 11:25). He even said that you should forgive someone four-hundred and ninety times if you have to (Matt. 18:21-22). But here’s the hard truth: if you refuse to forgive a person, the remnants of your past conflict will eventually rekindle. The longer you withhold forgiveness, the more you will end up hurting yourself. Forgiveness is certainly hard but unforgiveness is even harder in the long haul. By the grace of God, do the right thing and clean up the old battlefield. You’ll be glad you did.
Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).