Today, I am getting back on the bicycle, the horse or whatever other mode of transportation you want to name. Here are two posts in one.
The first is a repost…the first I wrote, and posted, on Forgiveness. The second post is the one I promised for the next day…about five weeks ago.
Crime or Convention (I)
I always seem to be reading authors who were at one time quite popular, who have fallen by the present wayside. George MacDonald, as I explained in another post, was a writer that very few could match today. His view of Christianity, especially Christian charity, would leave most Christians with heads bowed in shame. I know mine was.
For today’s seed we have a quote from GK Chesterton.
*As an aside, I don’t specifically seek out obscure quotes, but I do read some unconventional literature. It just seems to me the best literature ran its course a little over a century ago. Not that books written since have no value; it’s just that people, authors, used to have a style that seems to be missing today.
Back to Chesterton…
At one time he was probably the most famous Brit in the isles. He was pretty well known in the States too. Chesterton was a newspaperman, a writer, a political commentator (long before Fox News, CNN and those lesser channels) and many other things. He was a prodigy whose every written word was read on two continents. And now he is known by few, but he is chiefly unknown.
He truly was a great writer even though most of the world has forgotten him. He inspired much of the political commentary spoken today; he also inspired writers like Agatha Christy and Philip Marlowe. How? With a series of short stories called “The Father Brown Mysteries”. If you like mysteries, you need to read them. It is from one of the Father Brown stories that the seed comes.
Now, after 300 words of introduction, we get down to the crux of today’s post.
Some questions: I wonder how many truly grasp the significance of forgiveness in our lives? I wonder if we really understand what it is? I also wonder if we see it as Christ does? I’ll take each of those “wonder’s” separately, but I’ll answer them with a qualified, I doubt it.
- How many understand the importance of forgiveness to our lives?
I would say that most Christians have heard, at one time or another, a sermon based on forgiveness. I just heard one a couple of Sundays ago myself. It was the usual great effort by Brother John. He was right on point. The sermon itself was wrapped around a personal story he told the congregation; something he had been through that he had to forgive.
But, a question…Why did he HAVE to forgive?
Not for the other person involved surely. How often does the person we forgive know we forgave them? Better yet, how often do they acknowledge that they need forgiveness? Not very (often…that is – to borrow from Foghorn Leghorn).
The purpose of forgiveness is not so you can say with humility (or pride, the antonym of humility), I forgive you; it’s so you can move on. Unless you forgive, it eats at you; it festers and makes you bitter.
So, the act of forgiveness is not for the person being forgiven, but for the person who is doing the forgiving. It’s one of the many paradoxes God commands us to live by. This Christian life is a quandary!
That answers the first question, what about the second?
- Do we understand forgiveness?
I think most people have already heard that forgiveness is for the one doing the forgiving, but how well do we understand the act? How long is forgiveness? Is forgiveness an act of present significance? Does it really matter if we forgive?
How long, or maybe it’s better to ask, how much or far is forgiveness? Peter, who will be a part of this post in a couple of places, liked to be bold. In Matthew 18:21 he asked a question of Jesus. In essence, should I be generous and forgive my brother seven times if he sins against me? Christ’s answer, No…but up to seventy times seven (18:22). He meant forever (if you doubt the forever-ness of the seventy times seven, just read the parable that comes after in Matthew 18:23-34). The same message is contained in Psalm 103:12 which says, As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. How long, much or far should our forgiveness be…forever; never to be recalled again.
Is forgiveness an act of present significance? Yes, as we talked about before, but not primarily. It’s a future act. Since we know nothing in the past really matters (unless we forget it of course), it’s unnecessary to ask whether forgiveness is a past act. In the present, we are forgiven and we are to forgive. But why are we to forgive? Because Christ first forgave us so that we could enjoy a future. Without forgiveness we have no future. We forgive, as Christ forgave, because we want others to have a future also. But now we are delving into the third major question.
Does it really matter if we forgive? That’s an easy one: yes, on many levels. But let’s just say it matters because we are showing the same thing we were shown, as I said above.
But let’s get to what really matters; namely…
Tomorrow: part two. (or today)
Crime or Convention (II)
Where were we? Oh, yes:
But let’s get to what really matters; namely…
- Do Christians, those who are called to Christ-likeness, see forgiveness as He did (does)?
I claim no great insight here. I read the same Bible you do, I hear the same sermons. So I have to ask myself, Do I understand forgiveness as Christ taught it, demonstrated it, lived it? I can answer honestly: No.
Actually, I may understand it (because it is so clearly demonstrated in the Bible), but I have trouble living it.
How Christ taught forgiveness.
You may know all the stories. How Christ demonstrated His love for different classes of people, that He wept over Jerusalem, how He forgave those who needed it because HE had compassion for them. As we know, God sees the heart whereas we see the outer man.
That means we see the disdainful look, the action that seems unpardonable, the error that was easily avoidable. We see all of these things and perceive them based on our own biases bred by imperfect experience.
While writing this, I’m watching a baseball game. My favorite team is contesting the league’s best. The game was close (actually a tie) until the ninth inning. Unfortunately, the manager and my favorite team’s bullpen conspired to give the other team as many runs as possible (it went from 1-1 to 6-1 in just a couple of exasperating minutes). I have a very unforgiving spirit right now.
But, you could say, baseball games are so trivial…and they are. However, that quick unforgiving reaction is something we can all relate to. (The team I’m rooting for just lost BTW).
Christ’s teaching puts us above that immediate reaction. It took us away from the temporal and gave us a spirit that recognizes the eternal. How important is that petty reaction that causes a rift? How important is it to God?
Not forgiving someone for a slight against ourselves is prideful. Christ only acted with anger and with “zeal” when He was casting people out who were misusing His Father’s house. No matter how despicable, dire or deadly the crime, we are called to forgive. We know this because of how Jesus demonstrated forgiveness.
The perfect example is found in Luke 23:34: “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
The people who were crucifying Him, the Jews who had condemned Him, maybe even all of we who would come after, were on His mind when He made that statement. He was on the cross, where our sin had put Him, but He still had compassion. He realized that, as little children playing a cruel game, we had no idea what we were doing. He asked the Father to forgive us. And we are to have the same mindset.
As a conclusion, let me circle back around to something we very likely all believe.
Forgiveness is for the forgiver and not for the forgiven.
While completing this writing exercise, I realized my thoughts on this were all wrong. When these realizations come to me I don’t take them lightly. I have to ponder them, led, hopefully, by the Holy Spirit. So what was this realization.
I do forgive so that I can put that weight aside; I do forgive because I was commanded to; I do forgive as an act of obedience…but that’s not the importance of forgiveness in the grand scheme.
Forgiveness is primarily for the other person. If I don’t show forgiveness, I carry around that weight of bitterness and it shadows me to the grave, but, if I am a Christian, it does something more dire. My lack of forgiveness has the potential to destroy my witness with that person and with others who know that I couldn’t forgive in that instance.
That is the true price of denying someone forgiveness. Christ gave us this example because every person is worth saving and no act of ours should hinder that. Forgive the other person so that you can maintain your witness for Christ with that individual. Have the mind of Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord…forgive.