Let It Go, Monkey
Monkeys may be smart but they are also selfish. That’s what African poachers have observed as they’ve lured and captured hundreds of unsuspecting primates in order to smuggle and sell them illegally. According to one wildlife conservation organization, about three-thousand chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans are unlawfully seized or killed every year. And from Cameroon to Zimbabwe, these criminal hunters have discovered one fail proof method for snatching a monkey: taking advantage of the monkey’s greed.
Colorful and appealing items like bananas are placed inside the cages that poachers litter across monkey-populous rainforests and grasslands. Of course, this entices the monkeys, but they have become smart enough over time to know better than to enter the cages. Instead, they try to steal the bait from the outside. They reach inside through the bars, tighten their grip, and try everything from chewing to screaming in an attempt to seize the enticing object. However, trappers hiding nearby are well aware that their gnawing and squealing leads only to their capture, as the bait object is intentionally too large to pass through. The monkey is then hopelessly trapped by his refusal to let go. He remains enslaved as long as he has a death grip on the bait. If the monkey would learn to let go, he could avoid captivity and happily roam the jungle.
Unfortunately, it is our sinner-tendency to act like a monkey when it comes to forgiving others of their trespasses against us. Although Jesus directs us to forgive those who have wronged us (Matt. 6:14-15), our natural impulse is to clamp down on their offenses. We think to ourselves, “Until I feel you have repaid me for the wrong you’ve done, I will never let this go!” The worst part about it is we actually become sin’s monkey when we refuse to forgive. If you are withholding forgiveness from a wrongdoer in your life, you are the one in captivity. As long as you have a relentless grip on someone’s offense or debt, you will remain captured by the prison of unforgiveness. And what God wants you to do, for your own benefit, is let go.
You might be thinking, “But I can’t forgive—I just can’t.” Can I tell you something surprising? You are absolutely right. The first step in forgiving someone is recognizing that you can’t do it on your own. Unforgiveness is part of your nature as sin’s monkey—forgiveness is contrary to it.
Therefore, what you need in order to forgive is something divine: the grace of God. It’s no surprise, then, that when Paul wrote to Philemon about forgiving his wrongdoer, Onesimus, he prayed first that God would grant him the grace to forgive: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philemon 3).
Forgiveness is not something to monkey around with. If you don’t let go by God’s grace, unforgiveness will never let you go.
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).