We were having dinner with one of my husband’s business associates a few weeks ago and the subject matter had moved away from business matters to personal banter. The fellow brought up a situation that occurred months ago and seemed bent on re-opening old wounds. When Craig didn’t allow himself to be drawn into the mud-throwing, the fellow asked Craig “How can you even look that guy in the face, after what he did to you?”
Craig’s reply, “It’s because of Jesus.” The fellow’s eyes grew wide and he threw up his hand dismissively and asked again “No, really! How can you?” Craig replied, “Our flesh doesn’t want to forgive, but we make the choice to forgive because Jesus forgave us. We can’t operate on our emotions, but must forgive because it is right.” This time the man grimaced with irritation and waved both hands in front of his face, gesturing as if he wanted to erase us and start all over again.
Now, this man is one of the kindest and most cordial gentlemen we’ve ever met, an astute businessman and very charitable – both in funds and in overlooking the offenses of others.
But he just could not accept that Craig had made a choice to forgive someone so easily for something he considered an injustice of high magnitude. He just didn’t get it.
The whole situation caused me to stop and reflect on personal forgiveness.
When someone has reeeeeeeally hurt you, if you can immediately forgive them without them asking, and without experiencing any disappointment, hurt or resentment, then you can stop reading right now. I should be reading YOUR blog, not you reading mine.
I have not achieved that depth of spirituality where I can immediately, without thought, put aside that offense and not dwell on it any longer. It takes me a few minutes.
Ok, maybe a few hours.
But eventually I work through it, whining to God about the unfairness of it all.
“Unfair?” He gently asks.
Remembering Who I’m talking to, and Who’s Son bore the brunt of my sin – the epitome of unfairness – I repent. “Ok, Lord, I get the drift.”
And so I resolve to put away the injustice, to forgive and forget. Granted, I may have to put it away several times because it keeps creeping back out of the shadows, but I do make the choice to put it away.
Whenever I’ve been so offended that think I can’t possibly forgive, I think about Jesus. Being beaten to a pulp. Hanging from a cross. Dying a criminal’s death. For ME.
Just considering how He has forgiven me so many times for so many things makes me want to crawl back inside myself and hide.
This is why we as Believers can forgive. We really do not have a choice. “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (emphasis mine) Matthew 6:15, NLT.
Does God forgive us because He condones our sin? No. And neither are we condoning others’ sins against us when we forgive so easily. That’s not the point. Realizing that I am not in a position to deny forgiveness is.
God shows emotion throughout the Bible. He gets angry when humans sin. He shows mercy to the unfortunate and downtrodden, orphans and widows. He shows delight in the praise and charity of His people. He even celebrates over us with singing. And when we repent and turn our faces back toward Him, He lavishes us with loving forgiveness.
He is God, after all, so I can’t compare my actions or reactions to His. But in my tiny human mind, I imagine that He gets angry or upset when we sin and do not immediately repent. Then again, everything I’ve read in the Bible tells me that He is ready and even longing to forgive me; just waiting with anticipation for me to ask - so He can shower forgiveness over my life.
Since forgiveness is divine and not human, I realize that those who have not yet given their hearts to Christ simply cannot wrap their minds around the concept of unconditional forgiveness. It’s something you have to experience before you are able to give it out.
Maybe when the world sees Believer after Believer after Believer walking in forgiveness, it will give them pause and cause them to consider what’s different about us. Maybe they will ask. And maybe, just maybe, they will want that forgiveness for themselves.