If I had to select a national pastime to replace baseball, I’d say that holding a grudge would take top honors. Ask any Christian you happen to see, and they’ll gladly tell you that forgiveness is one of the essential ingredients of their walk with God. They may even recall part of the Lord’s Prayer–forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.
If most of us really thought about what that sentence suggests, we should all tremble with fear. If God’s forgiveness of our sins is in direct proportion to our forgiveness of those who’ve wronged us, then we gots problems.
Now, most of us forgive without hesitation. We can forgive the guy who just cut us off on the freeway. We can forgive the petty thief who lifted our camera on that trip to Mexico. And many of us claim we could even forgive a man who committed a grievous crime against a family member, even murder. After all, Guideposts is just chock-full of those types of stories.
But we seem to lose our forgivability factor when the person in need of our grace is somewhere in between. An ex-husband or wife who slanders our name all over facebook. No way. Unforgivable. C’mon…they hurt me bad!
Or the business partner who splits off and goes into direct competition, dragging your company through the mud. Forgive her? Not a chance. She’s destroying my livelihood.
What about the brother who destroyed his life with drugs and alcohol, dragging your parents down with him, even stealing from them to finance his addictions. Surely, Jesus didn’t mean him. Not him.
Jesus did mean him. And the ex-husband. And the back-stabbing partner. He meant everyone. Not everyone minus one. Every. One.
You’re probably thinking of someone you’ve never forgiven. Get his or her image in your head. Think about how he or she hurt you. Concentrate hard on what she did that almost destroyed your life. Dwell on it a bit. Feel that old anger churning in your gut. Got the image? Good.
Now let’s add another image: Jesus, hanging naked from the cross. His body ripped from the lashes, blood pouring from every inch of his flesh. His face so disfigured from the beatings that he doesn’t even look human. Through his swollen and bleeding lips, He’s just uttered the words, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
Now, please, by all means, explain to Jesus why you can’t forgive this person who’s wronged you.