Author – Wade Thomas
I know forgiveness can be really hard. I reminded my oldest tonight that as she grows there are going to be times where forgiving someone can be incredibly difficult. But I told her the thing she must remember, absolutely has to remember if she wants to keep it straight in her head and her heart, is that it won’t be hard because God’s standard is just too darn high.
It will be hard because of her. Because of the still-present sin in her own not-fully-glorified heart.
I confessed to her (as I confess to you on this tiny blog in a corner of the attic of the internet) that I have tremendous difficulty forgiving people who gossip about me at work or a family member whose selfishness leaves long-lasting scars. But the reason that I have trouble forgiving them isn’t that their sins are just so blasted huge. The most evil sin ever committed was nailing the God-man to an undeserved Cross. But the God-man Himself asked that that atrocity be pardoned while the blood from the wounds was still wet and warm.
“ And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.” Luke 23:33-34
It isn’t hard because God’s bar is unreasonably high, either. He doesn’t tempt us with unduly harsh rules. No, the problem is that in my heart in the moment when I’m sinned against I think I’m god, and that any sin against me is high moral treason. But I’m a vastly less forgiving god than the actual God, even though sins against me, in reality, are far less wretched an act than they are as sins against Him. I cling to the memory of them. I ruminate on the evil of that co-worker’s slander, that relative’s thoughtless remark, that friend’s disloyalty.
And of course, unlike the actual God, I have sins of my own that I don’t seem as appalled by. That’s where I really expose my hand, there, when it’s other people’s pride or selfishness that set me off. While there’s of course always a supposed “good reason” for my own.
That’s the obstacle. That’s the issue. Me.
Forgiveness is hard, yes. But not because of the reason I’d think first.
It’s hard because of me. Which means the solution must start closer to the bone. Right under my t-shirt, in my own Christ-thirsty heart.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything. And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, Pay what you owe. So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you. He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’ “ Matthew 18:21-35