Sunday, December 18, 2011
Yes, I just used a mathematical term to name my blog post for the day. Forgiveness Times Seventy Times Seven. It's in the bible, you know. Matthew 18:21-35 gives both a clear statement about forgiveness and a parable to illustrate the meaning. We are to forgive. It doesn't matter if the person deserves it or not, if they asked for it or not, if we want to or not. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone causes strife, or pain, or does things they will live to regret, if they don't already regret them. Everyone needs forgiveness. Not just "everyone else" -- EVERYONE. That includes me, and it includes you.
It's not easy. Believe me, I know. I've had people treat me despicably. I've been lied to, betrayed, hurt, put down, and made fun of. I've been disrespected, made to feel I was inferior, unintelligent, unimportant. I've been talked about behind my back and I've been diminished to my face. The lesson I've learned is this: it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of me, or what anyone else does to me. I'm not on this Earth to please them. Their thoughts of me, their ideas of how I should be, are meaningless. We're all equals -- my friends, my family, my enemies, and myself -- regardless of belief system, color, agenda, orientation, finances, or anything else. I'm not here to judge them and they're not here to judge me.
So what happens when someone you love slips? A modern day parable, if you will:
Someone you love is climbing a mountain but the two of you are on the outs, so to speak. This person -- they don't have the gear necessary to climb the mountain, they're full of snide remarks about your lack of ability to climb the mountain, and you're angry at them for being stupid enough to think they can do it their way and not the proper way. You turn away, walking back to the car in anger, when suddenly you hear the sound of rocks slipping, a small scream, and when you look back all you can see is one hand desperately grabbing on to a root hanging off the side of the cliff. You are at the decision making point. Are you going to let their pride, their stupid choices, and their insistence on their own way dictate who YOU are? Are you going to say, "Well, they obviously didn't want my help or my opinion, they thought I was weaker than they are, less intelligent than they are. They made fun of me. They're in this position because of their own poor choices, so they're going to have to get out of it on their own. I'm not going to help."
Or -- do you run, just as desperate to save their life as they are, throw yourself down and grab them with both hands, pulling them to safety?
See, the thing is, we're all struggling. We're all a bunch of self-centered, egotistical, "My way is right and yours is wrong", stubborn people. We all want what we want, when we want it. We all think our way is the best way. EVERYONE. Not just other people. We're like this, too. What would happen if we were off the side of the mountain, slipping to our death? We'd want someone to save us. We might think that we're not stupid enough to fall off the side of a mountain, but we all have our own mountain.
A mountain of debt -- some financial curse that keeps us from achieving any new, safe ground. A pile that we can't seem to get out from under, regardless of how hard we try or how much we sacrifice.
A mountain of hurt -- we've treated someone we love like trash, but we're too proud to apologize.
A mountain of vice -- alcohol or drugs or food has become the all-encompassing goddess of our lives, it's ruining everything else in our existence, but we can't seem to shake it though we know how much we have to.
A mountain of betrayal. A mountain of faithlessness. Disorganization. Hatred. Anger. Resentment. Bitterness.
We all have our own mountain, and we'd all want someone to throw themselves at us in desperation to save us if we slip. When we slip. As we slip.
We're slipping right now.
Listen, friends -- there's a reason that part of the Lord's prayer is "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We have nothing we can offer God. He's not beholden to forgive us when we make mistakes. He's not obligated to give us a new start. We've offended and hurt him so much, every day of our lives, by our words, our actions, our lack of faith, our hatred towards Him and towards humankind -- but he forgives us anyway. He loves us anyway. Why would He do that, if not to model that sort of a lifestyle for us?
Someone might not deserve it. Someone might not change because of it. Someone might go right on hurting, or hating, or living their self-centered ways for the rest of their lives.
Forgive them anyway.
In the end, it's not what they've done to you or what they haven't done for you that matters. It's what God did for you, and what He does for you every day. We aren't supposed to model ourselves after other flawed human beings. We're already flawed human beings. We're supposed to model ourselves after Jesus. He didn't say, "Hey, knock it off with the beating! This crucifixion shouldn't be happening! I don't deserve this! I didn't do anything wrong! You guys are the jerks! You guys are the ones in the wrong!"
"Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." -- Luke 23:34
This is the Christmas season. We're excited about the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Let's not forget what the reason was for that birth. It was for the redemption of the world, the salvation of every single one of us from our own mountain. The forgiveness we don't deserve. Our reconciliation that we could not bring about ourselves.
Let every heart prepare Him room.