As I think about our topic for this month, I’m aware it easily dovetails with my earlier post in the Perspective series on others. I wondered if this week would be “Part Deux,” and I’m walking the road farther with fresh eyes. Seeing others differently is the beginning of the journey, but something, maybe elusive but critical, takes us further: a decision. Maybe similar to an old Chicago voting slogan, we should decide early and decide often.
I’ll let you in on a secret—I’m a little like rich, dark chocolate lava cake. Lovely squat structure, a little spongy on the outside, but just below the surface is a warm, ooey-gooey puddle waiting to spill out. I’m a little soft and emotional that way, but most people won’t see it. Many of us have the self-control to limit our emotional vulnerability to those closest to us. There’s my problem. Probably like you, with few exceptions, my emotional “lava” is reserved for the regular characters in my story. They are close in proximity and emotional connection. The rude customer service rep is a one-time offense. The cold actions, hurtful words, or painfully obvious silence from a family member can have higher frequency. If I let my emotional “puddle” have its way, offenses add up, get stuck, and then spew. (Insert a mental image of vertical lava spew here rather than slow spread.)
It’s too easy to get into a rotten relational cycle, and that usually involves a grudge. So what’s the solution? When I take a look at Peter’s question and Jesus’ response, I pause for a bit.
I want to ask, “Jesus, do you mean 490 times a day? A week? Over a lifetime?” Did Peter want to ask those questions? I’m strikingly similar to the disciples; I have tendencies toward the search for understanding…and sometimes a loophole. That’s a bigger problem than I might want to admit.
Jesus’ use of the numbers 7 and 70 had purpose. He wasn’t suggesting a product solution of the two; he was indicating something significant (a cultural understanding of sacred numbers: innumerable responses and complete forgiveness). I’m pretty sure the translation should be something like, “There is no offense that shouldn’t be forgiven.” Not one. Really? Absolutely.
The 490 times is important. Every offense. Every time. This is the “Forgive early, and forgive often” part of the process. Allowing resentment to simmer for any length of time only builds heat, pressure, and intensity. (Ask me. I know.) If it’s true that freedom waits on the other side of forgiveness, then why would any of us want to be in chains any longer than necessary. We can be free now!
In everyday life, I get tired. That’s when I make mistakes. I know the right thing to do, but it doesn’t enter my mind during the emotional chaos, or I just don’t want to do what is right. It’s important to acknowledge my ridiculous human frailty and my sinful nature that fights every step of the way as I try to learn, embrace, and live out the spiritual life my Abba wants for me. Sigh. This is not an easy fight, but it’s worthwhile! I want to remember there are consequences for the lackadaisical attitude every time I adopt it.
Every time I give up the fight, there is less “fight” in me for the next time. This isn’t new. The comfort level expands each time I relax into a decision (good or bad). If I’m candid with you all, I have relaxed into resentment too often simply because my pride says I deserve better treatment than I’ve received. You, too?
How do I magnify the offenses against me and minimize the offenses I’ve mounted against the One who is perfectly holy and has every right to punish those offenses? Suddenly, it can be “all about me” again. What does Scripture say about choosing resentment, carefully keeping lists of offenses, and nursing every grudge just a little longer to make someone else pay or make me feel better?
These two verses have always given me pause, but maybe not often enough. My Abba is not playing games with me, as if my relationship to Him were fragile or uncertain. The general commentary consensus is that the Church, those who identify as “God’s people,” are to be forgiving because we have received precious, unending forgiveness through Jesus. Every offense. Every time.
What do you think about the topic this month? Has forgiveness come easily to you? I’d love to hear how you came to a place of merciful or gracious forgiveness for others in your life. Or, feel free to kick around some of the difficulties you’ve faced. I’d love to read and respond to your thoughts below in the comments or at the Facebook page!
Thanks for reading along, friends!