Monday, July 10, 2006

Forgiveness is Difficult

Ask Questions for God
at the Blue Pyramid.

It is hard to forgive. When we have been wronged the last thing we want to do is to forgive the person who has hurt us. In a way it feels like we are saying, "It is okay that you hurt me. Let's forget about it and be friends." There is no way we want to do that, and so instead we choose not to forgive.

What we forget is how much we have already been forgiven. Jesus told this parable concerning forgiveness:

41 "A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" (Luke 7:41-42; NLT)

I believe what Jesus wants us to understand is that if we do not see ourselves as having been forgiven a huge debt, if we are not grateful for what God has done, then we will not consider forgiveness to be a big deal. Jesus told this parable during a party at Simon the Pharisee's house. Simon did not offer Jesus the hospitality a host was to provide for his guests, but a sinful woman crashed the party and showed Jesus unusual affection. Simon and the Sinful Woman stand as contrasts between the one who believes he deserves forgiveness and the one who sees her huge debt erased. Her gratefulness moves her to love and hope. It is hard to forgive because we are not grateful for the forgiveness God has shown to us.

Jesus told another story concerning forgiveness:

21 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?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven."

23 "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 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. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything. 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 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. 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you. 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 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. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 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; NLT)

This servant had a distorted perspective. He somehow did not think the forgiveness of what he owed to be a big deal, but the tiny sum that was owed to him was a huge deal. The same is true for us. Somehow we don't think the lying, cheating, lusting, murdering, hating, and other evil that we do is a big deal, after all it is our sin. So when we do a few "religious things" we think we have made up the difference. We forget that our debt is huge, and there is nothing we can do to undo what has be done. God, through His grace, has forgiven us of our wicked deeds.

Yet we want to hold against the person the small offenses a person has committed against us. Granted when they happen to us they are not small, but in comparison to what God has forgiven they are small. We demand justice to be done, and offer no forgiveness.

We find it hard to forgive because we have a distorted perspective.

What's the solution? The Apostle Paul wrote: 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost (1 Timothy 1:15; NLT).

Was Paul the worst of sinners? No, I think we can list people who did worse things than he did. Yet Paul had a deep understanding that he had sinned in terrible ways and that there was no reason why forgiveness should be extended to him, but it was. It will always be hard for us to forgive, and when we don't understand how much we have been forgiven it will be next to impossible.

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