…is it really that hard? Yes.
But why is it so hard, especially when Christ commands it of us?
15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” 21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
I’ve seen a LOT of ugliness going on in the past two weeks – children fighting with one another, teenagers shunning one another, adults talking about others behind backs, people telling people they can’t do stuff because of a gender or race. I’ve seen public name-calling, and not by children, either.
It seems so trite when we’ve been hurt so badly to say, “I forgive you.” Sometimes the cuts are so deep that the simple phrases can’t even be uttered because they seem so false. What is forgiveness and how do we give it? How do we move on when we’ve been betrayed, hurt, criticized unfairly and even treated as if you should not be doing something because of a gender or race? How can God really expect that from us? We are human, afterall.
In pondering this passage for the past few days, I’ve come across a new perspective of the Cross. A new perspective of just how completely abandoned and betrayed Christ must have felt when he hung on the cross in order to offer forgiveness to us. Christ never did anything to anybody. When we think about offering forgiveness to others, we often think about how unfairly we’ve been treated by the other person and how we just can’t even begin to utter those words. We’re so human. And that’s where I’m even more and more stunned and knocked back by the power, grace and LOVE of Christ for me. Christ never did anything to anybody, but he still gave wholly and completely of himself for me…for us.
So often we go through life thinking that we’re doing everything right. Thinking that our relationships are just fine. Thinking that some of our closest confidantes are just fine with us. It’s in those cases most often that we find out that our thoughts aren’t really the case afterall. Our thoughts are idealistic, but the reality is something completely different altogether. And that is where the hurt cuts the deepest. That is where we feel the most betrayed. That is where we feel the most alone in life. And it’s also where we turn to the childish behavior rather than turning to the Cross.
No one ever said that forgiveness is easy. Especially when betrayal is so hard. But no one ever said that what Christ did for us was easy, either. Christ walked around for 3 years with a group of confidantes who, when the road got tough, betrayed him. Yet, he still, out of love and respect for his God, offered those who betrayed him the same forgiveness as those whom he had never met. What kind of amazingly crazy love is that? Why do we deserve that? Why does God care for us that much? How could Christ have possibly risen above that behavior and betrayal to still lay down his life for his friends?
Betrayal hurts…and in order to get to the truest sense of whatever kind of forgiveness we are humanly able to offer, we have to stew in that for a while. We have to live with the fact that we may have done something to cause someone to behave a certain way, even if they didn’t tell us we did. We have to deal with the confidante who ignores us because they are too afraid to face us. We have to deal with the friends who try to go to bat for us but dont’ quite do it the way we think they should. We have to deal with the unknown and unexpected and learn to move on through it. It’s hard. It hurts. It plain sucks!
But, every person deserves it. It won’t be easy to move past the part that sucks, but we HAVE to move past it. Once we travel through the challenge, then and ONLY then can healing begin. We have to turn it over to God and trust that God’s going to be in the situation and help us move on. We’re not expected to forgive and forget…God never has forgotten…but we are expected to forgive and move on. Move on to the point that we remember, but in our remembrance we continue to offer that same forgiveness each time we remember. Forgiveness means opening our hearts again, but it doesn’t mean opening our hearts and allowing ourselves to be hurt the same way again. We’re not to take abuse, but we are to forgive the abuser.
How many times have we abused Christ? And how many times have we been forgiven? Christ tells us to forgive until we can’t forgive anymore….go to our deathbed forgiving the person who hurt us.
Afterall, hasn’t that been done for us somewhere before?
In order for us to offer forgiveness, we must first reconcile any issues we may have with a brother or sister. We must first ask for forgiveness from another for sins we have committed against them. Sins in our thoughts, sins in our hearts, physical sins…we must ask for forgiveness from the brother or sister and also from God. We may feel we don’t have the strength or can’t possibly face the battle that may await in our asking…but picture the Cross. When we take a new perspective on things, we suddenly realize that our fears pale in comparison to the fears that Christ had when facing the Cross. And we also remember that Christ overcame the Cross, too. We will get through the battles and trials, but we must “gird our loins” and face them before we can get through them.
This forgiveness stuff is hard. It sucks. It’s something that we don’t want to have to face…but why are we so scared? Are we scared of being hurt even more than we already are? Are we scared the person will not allow us to forgive? Are we scared that we won’t be able to move on…ever?
Lord God, I pray today that you would fill us all with your strength as we all face whatever challenges lie ahead of us. Fill us with the same strength you filled Christ with as he took to the Cross on our behalf. Remind us that it’s your command to face our brothers and sisters who sin against us, and it’s dualy your command to forgive those who hurt us. Offering forgiveness is not in our nature, Lord, although it should be. We tend to hold onto things and not be able to move on. Please God, please, help us to move on past the hurt and pain. Help us to move past our problems with others and talk it through with them and bring about the healing that you provide. Be with all of us, Almighty God, who are struggling to offer the love and healing to another that you have so graciously and undeservedly offered to us. We are weak, Lord, give us the strength. We ask this in the name of your Holy Son, who so graciously gave of himself for sinners like us. Thank you God, for the gift of forgiveness and love. Help us to share it with others. In your name, and in Christ’s Holy Name we pray, Amen.