I did two years in Mind Penitentiary on death row. The charge was unforgiveness and the jury was my heart. I had been before this same Judge, on other charges, and was found not guilty. This time I was guilty as charged. The witnesses were my thoughts and they constantly testified against me.

"FORGIVE" Definition: To cease to feel resentment against, on account of wrong committed; to give up claim to requital from or retribution upon (an offender); to absolve; to pardon; -- said of the person offending.

Two years ago a friend of mine, who I loved like a brother, betrayed me. We were friends for over twenty years and I thought we had a mutual respect for each other. I met him when I was ten years old… we played football together, fought together, and met girls together. After I finished college we started to hang more often. Our relationship was that of best friends because we went on vacations, watched football games, and fellowshipped about the word of God. I was a vessel that God used to plant the seed of Christ.

One day this particular friend, another friend of mine, and I were talking. My friend who betrayed me thought Jesus was just a good man. My other friend and I told him Jesus was perfect and no man was perfect but God. We explained to him how all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that no one could be perfect unless he was God. This conversation led to a million more until my friend told me he had become a Christian. I was very happy because now I could fellowship with someone who could relate to where I had come from and where I was trying to go. I mean a brother in Christ is born for adversity.

This guy was from my neighborhood and had been around for a long time. I was really enjoying the fellowship. We had a couple of disagreements about certain things relating to scripture but I didn't think much about it. That was my first mistake because in Amos 3:3 God says, "Can two walk together except they be agreed." Our disagreement had to do with the Law and Grace. My friend was becoming religious and had not embraced God's "Amazing Grace." He thought it was all about the law and following a bunch of rules to be saved. I told him it was about Grace and Faith. The scripture says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8)

This became a great debate, so much so, that I called my pastor and asked him if he would meet with us. My pastor agreed without even knowing what I wanted to meet about. My friend stated that since my pastor was a man of God he would believe what he said. Well, my pastor met us in his office and went through a bunch of scriptures revealing that those who believe in Christ were saved by grace and faith. After, we left my pastor's office my friend said, "Your pastor just said that so he could pacify your belief." Wow, I should have known then that he was not a man of his word.

To make a long story short we continued to fellowship together but not about that particular subject. I would give him different DVD's and CD's from some of my favorite pastors hoping he would come to the knowledge of the truth. One time I gave him a CD and he told me it was like eating a steak dinner. I felt great because I thought the word was beginning to penetrate a hardened heart. One particular day I told him a story about my wife going shopping when I told her not to. I told him that, though I didn't like it, I couldn't beat her up because she wasn't my child. I said this jokingly trying to get him to know how frustrated it can be dealing with adults even if the adult is your wife.

I told him that God was the Author of marriage and that whenever I had a problem with my wife, that I couldn't resolve, I would pray to God and He would fix it. I told him about this situation about two or three times jokingly. Well, when you are a child of God the Holy Spirit will speak through you and you might not have any idea what He is saying to the person. Have you ever been in church and it seemed like the pastor was talking directly to you. Well, that is an example of the Holy Spirit speaking through someone directly to you.

My friend called me a week later accusing me of making comments about his family and his wife. I immediately said, "Who said I said something about you?" He said that I made the comments to him myself. I had no idea about what he was talking about. He then told me a story about how he had put his hands on his wife in the worst way and how he felt about it. I told him that I didn't know anything about that situation and that I loved him like a brother. He began to apologize to me for anything that he may have done to me or my family and I did the same.

He asked me to call him the next day because I was at work at the moment. He told me he would be home all day. Well, I didn't call him because I figured he needed some time to cool off. He was going out of town the day after he told me to call him. He returned the next week. I called him to see how his trip was and he invited me to come over to his house. I said cool, I will meet you there. My wife asked me, "You don't think he is going to try and fight you... do you?" I said, "No, this is my friend of 20 years and that will never happen."

I went to his house and he was not there but his cousin was outside. He shortly pulled up. I walked down his driveway to meet him and I stuck out my hand and said, "How was your trip?" He immediately swung on me and I didn't know what hit me. I got off of the ground and said, "You swung on me... In the name of Jesus, I came to you in love." In disbelief, I started toward him to get the party started and he picked up a brick. He said, "I'm telling you I am going to bust your head with this brick if you come any closer." I said, "You are going to hit me with a brick?"

Next, a friend of ours who was in the house came out and said, "Break it up, what are y'all doing? We were just chilling together a week ago. What is going on?" I told my friend that I didn't know what had happened but that it seemed to me as the work of satan. The Scripture says, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12) I went home and told my wife that I should have listened to her but I thought that the love and respect that my friend and I had was much greater than that. I called my friend and left this voice message, "You got that off but I still have love for you."

I thought I was o.k. and that I would just chalk that one up as a learning experience. Then it started to happen. I started to have thoughts of revenge and murder. My heart was hurt because this was my friend who I thought loved me and no one would have ever been able to get that off but a friend. I have been in many fights before and have never lost. I can't take credit for this record but God always allowed me to come out on top. I started dealing with unforgiveness and a root of bitterness was growing up in my heart. When an offense happens it can breed bitterness; bitterness breeds bars; bars breed imprisonment; and when you are in prison, you are trapped; you cannot give nor receive anything.

God's Word says, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." (Hebrews 12:15) God started to deal with me about Pride... which was my real enemy. I was so proud and my ego was so big that I just couldn't forgive my brother or let it go. Every time I would think about it, I wanted to go and handle the situation myself. The Lord brought to my remembrance that Vengeance belongs to Him and He will repay.

First of all, we as humans cannot execute Vengeance because we cannot see the heart. If I wanted to kill my friend because he punched me... that is way out of balance. You should not shoot a person because they punch you. That is absurd... especially a person you have known all of your life. The one thing God does not tolerate is unforgiveness that is essential in Christianity. The Lord's Prayer says, "Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me."

Do you recall the story of the debtor that owed the King millions of dollars and begged the King for forgiveness? Well, the King forgave him his debt and this same guy went out and put a guy in Debtors Prison for $20.00. The King’s servants saw what the man did and went back and told the King. The King called the guy back and put him in prison until he paid back all he owed. God Almighty has forgiven me for many sins and is still forgiving me now... so I cannot afford to be harboring unforgiveness towards anyone.

I prayed about the condition of my heart for two years so that I could forgive my friend. I have now forgiven him in Jesus name and I am officially out of prison. You can stay in prison as long as you want to hold onto unforgiveness. Some people have been in prison for a lifetime and will die there. Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping someone else dies. It will kill you. Lastly, I found out that Love is undefeated. I still think about some of the good times my friend and I shared and I just laugh. Lastly, my battle was not against my friend... he was just the vessel that Satan chose to use. There is an enemy that is coming to steal, kill, and destroy but greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. You overcome evil with good! Do yourself a favor and forgive. Hallelujah!

Study Verses: Gen 4:1-16, Luke 15:11-32, Gen 27:41

Article from "Faith Talk Blog," written by the Lover of Words...