Tonight is my fourteenth wedding anniversary, and because of this, I think the topic of forgiveness is very appropriate. The inability to forgive or hold grudges made my list at number three, but in many ways, it is the most dangerous, and comes with the most to lose. In staying with the recurring theme and motive, the issue of forgiveness should be the first thing a new disciple of Christ comes to an agreement with and understands. Without forgiveness, everything else is meaningless in our faith. Jesus becomes just a man dying on a cross for something that He believed in – a single martyr with no legacy. Even His resurrection means nothing without the act of forgiveness. It is this issue, the lack of a forgiving heart; that bothers me more frequently than any other matter in the Christian church today. It is also this inability to forgive that makes us rigid and hard. Jeremiah also referred to as the weeping prophet, records in the eighteenth chapter of his book,
The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.
Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, but then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned. And if I announce that I will plant and build up a certain nation or kingdom, but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless it as I said I would.
“Therefore, Jeremiah, go and warn all Judah and Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am planning disaster for you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right.’”
But the people replied, “Don’t waste your breath. We will continue to live as we want to, stubbornly following our own evil desires.”(1-12).
Note the question God proposes, “O Israel, can I not do to you as the potter has done to his clay?”. Anyone that has seen the movie Ghost, or worked with clay understands the dilemma and frustration in these words. Clay can only be reworked while it is soft and pliable. Once it begins to get hard, it has reached its final transition and is either useful or goes in the garbage. Think about that for just a second. Regarding our faith, we should always remain soft and pliable because we are a continuing work until we go home. We pray for forgiveness, and we boast in the atonement as an act of love and mercy, but we cannot seem to come to terms with forgiveness of others in our lives.
Red letter alert: “and when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins”(Matt 11:25). How often does someone offend us today? Rhetorical I know, but this generation has coined a whole new term “butt-hurt” because it happens all the time. I don’t hear apologies, or read retractions. Instead, I see trolls everywhere. We love to hurt each other, hold a grudge, and come up with a way to get one up on the perpetrator tomorrow. On a large scale, that’s how wars start. On a small scale, that’s how families break, marriages end and friends become enemies. You cannot simultaneously cling to forgiveness and not forgive others – our faith does not work like this and proves that you don’t understand the faith or Christ at all.
Red letter alert: Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you? Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.”
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” (Matt 18:21-35)
Learn to be forgiving and flexible. We are all different, come from many backgrounds and upbringings, and we all learn at different speeds – Don’t wait for the other partner to say, “I’m sorry”, step up to the plate and transform the dynamic of the relationship.A Living Sacrifice, A Living Sacrifice: 2