Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. – Mark 11:25

Have you ever won a trophy? I’m not talking about a participation trophy that everyone gets. I’m talking about a real trophy that you won by working hard and overcoming another team or another player in sports or by winning another type of competition. In the moments of the championship game or final contest where you had to win by outplaying, outthinking your opponent. When you got home, you placed that trophy on a shelf or in another prominent place. You won, and you wanted everyone to know it.

I remember winning my first trophy in soccer. It was my favorite sport, mainly because I was decent enough at it to enjoy playing. I played football one year in the fourth grade, but I was so bad that my play was to run out on the field and pretend to be hurt when we ran out of timeouts. I wish I were kidding. I played baseball for a year and mostly got to first-base before the pitcher hit me. I led the team in turnovers the one year I played basketball. My sports career was not stellar. So why did I become better at soccer? Because I wanted to. I wanted to learn the game. I was willing to put in the extra hours of practice on my own time. All of these things showed that I wanted to win. The game of the championship was not a blowout. It was close. The other team scored and that meant we had to score twice in order to win. The game was intense, back and forth, but when the final whistle blew, we won. The trophy was ours.

When watching a championship game on TV, you see the winner holding the trophy high, sometimes even kissing it. We cheer when our team wins. The trophy is the celebrated prize. But can a trophy be a negative thing? Well, that depends not on the trophy but on the contest.

When someone has wronged us, betrayed our trust or hurt our heart, we feel a loss. From society’s perspective, the loss must be overcome with a victory. We feel that we have to get even or more. We hold our forgiveness as if it’s a trophy, and if we give it, we will lose. The opponent has won. We even display our trophies by being bitter, prideful, or hostile. We can’t let the opponent win by offering our forgiveness. We see their victory as our loss.

Nothing could be further from the truth. By living this way, forgiveness isn’t the trophy. Bitterness, pride and hostility are, and we celebrate them by holding our forgiveness back. Imagine standing before a crowd and holding up your bitterness and kissing it. Shouting victoriously over the hostility in our hearts. The thought of this seems ridiculous. Instead, the victory is in the cross. The trophy of forgiveness is celebrated when we lift it up to Jesus. When the Father sees us forgive as He forgave us, we experience the victory of relinquishing the opponent’s hold on us. We let it go, not to give the opponent a free pass but instead to refuse to allow that hurt to have victory over us. No matter how we try to get even, their hold on us remains secure.

If someone were to walk into your home, what trophies would they see on the shelf? What prizes would be on display? How would your victories be presented? Would it be the hall of bitterness or the absolute glory of God and His provision of forgiveness and peace? The shelf is yours to decorate.

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