I don’t have a lot to say recently. Most of what I am learning lately has been working on my heart more than my head. Thus, sometimes the heart work is hard to put into words.
The last few weeks the Lord has been teaching me about forgiveness. It is always hardest to forgive the people who seem to sin against me in the same way over and over and over again. I have been prone to say, “seriously God? How many more times do I forgive my brother or my sister? Isn’t there a point where I require some action along with that confession? Isn’t repentance a two-sided coin?”
I feel like this comes up most frequently in my marriage, although I have seen it often in my friendships. We have this frustration when people don’t change or immediately stop the ways they hurt us, even after asking for forgiveness. On a particularly hard day last week with Kevin, I was tempted to stop being so gracious, and give back what he deserved. My plan? Go spend a lot of money on things that were not in the budget. This is something that would totally hurt and disrespect him. Luckily the Lord gave me a day off and led me to McDonalds to read, instead of to the mall.
I was struck by Matthew 18, when Jesus tells his disciples to forgive 70×7 times. This number is not meant to be a limit, but rather a principle: You keep forgiving him. He explained that in the kingdom of God, it will be like a king who forgives all of your debt. As Christians, our only hope is to plead before the throne of Christ and ask for the mercy that comes from His atoning work on the cross. “Therefore,” the king says, “should not you also have mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”
Everyday I stand before God and plead my right standing on Jesus’ behalf. Never ever will there come a day when I do not need the full and free forgiveness from the cross. And now, as God’s chosen, beloved, and holy children, we are commanded to put on Christ’s likeness everyday. We are called to be humble, meek, patient with sin, and forgiving. All of this embodies love (Col. 3) and if we don’t have love, 1 John says we don’t have anything. This is the truest form of Christ-likeness!
And so sure enough, I attended the Oaks this weekend, and Pastor Bryan preached on the end of Genesis. Joseph wept when he realized his brothers doubted his genuine forgiveness of their wrongs against him. Joseph’s response: “I can’t punish you, I’m not God. He used your evil against me for good.” Joseph realizes the sovereignty of God and then continues to step out in this radical, unbelievable forgiveness. Bryan compared it to buying lunch everyday for a year for the guy who stole your job or got you fired.
It challenged me in the way I give forgiveness. Usually I verbally forgive my husband or friend, but then still close myself off to them for a while to make them “think about what they’ve done.” Never would I bake Kevin’s favorite dessert for him immediately after he repents of sin to me?! But why not? If I understand just how much I have been forgiven from, and the reward I have been given in return, I ought to respond to sin in a radically loving way. How much more would the gospel be shown to our brother or sister? What picture of grace would they see. I think it would speak volumes.