Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven
where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal

Monday, February 4, 2013

Forgiving Those Who Forgive You

In the midst of a conversation with an atheist, I mentioned Jesus' injunction to forgive those who harm you not just once, or even seven times, but every time. The atheist came back with a quick, “I bet you don't do that,” as proof that the teachings of Jesus were useless. He could say that because you see, in atheist-world, Christians who fail to live up to Jesus' commands are proof to the atheist that s/he does not need to take Jesus seriously.

Only atheists can connect the dots on that "logic." 
They're smarter than us – don't you know?

Anyhow, it's interesting that out of all the things that I do wrong, this atheist should challenge me on the one thing that I actually get right. Until the issue of forgiveness was brought up, I hadn't even realised how far Jesus had brought me in the last 32 years.

I say, “how far Jesus has brought me,” because until Jesus came into my life, forgiveness was simply not part of my behavioural repertoire. In fact, revenge and retaliation were something I enjoyed. Needed. Craved. Revenge and retaliation were on my “must do” list. I didn't know any other way of living. If someone hurts you, you hurt them back – only a little bit more - right?

I think the worst, stupidest and most shameful example was this. I had this ex con (he was never “ex” for very long) working for me. I liked him and we were almost to a point where you could have said we were friends. Except -

He was an alcoholic.
He was addicted to cocaine.

I don't know if you've noticed but those things are often problems in a relationship. I'm being facetious.

As anyone could have predicted he stole from me (a hand gun and two rifles) and disappeared. Angry didn't half describe what I was feeling. When I found out that he'd been arrested and which jail he was in, I got him to put me on his visitor list with an offer of forgiveness (lies, lies, all lies). When I got in there we met in this small cubical with a Guard watching.

. Here's the worst part. I laid into this guy with “who do you think you are,” and “how dare you,” and - well - blah, blah, blah.
. Here's the stupid part. This guy had arms as big around as my thighs. He out-weighed me by a hundred pounds. Did I mention he was in the Regional Psychiatric Centre for the criminally insane?
. Here's the most shameful part. I was already a follower of Jesus. Albeit I was brand new at it but that was my goal. To be like Jesus. If you want be theologically correct, it was my destiny. What a joke! I was a follower of Jesus who took deep offence at being robbed and if I couldn't get my guns back (I couldn't), and if I couldn't beat the crap out of this guy (I most certainly couldn't) I could at least hurt this person verbally. I could attack him as a person. Ya, like he'd never experienced that kind of abuse as a child.

And so, I vented my rage face to face.
That was about 32 years ago.

Today, because Jesus has made deep inroads into my soul, that type of thing is very, very unlikely. Today, I actually enjoy it when I'm slighted or insulted or taken advantage of. Not because I'm a masochist but because it gives me a chance to observe the power of the Spirit working in and through me. And while there are even a few more areas in which I could claim “victory,” there are also many areas that still need vast improvement. Technically that's okay. It's okay because the quality of my relationship with Jesus is not based upon the degree of success that I've so far attained in loosening the organized and determined nature of my sin-life. For Jesus said, "I will complete the good work that I began in you."

I'm forgiven and for that reason I can forgive others.
I've received mercy and for that reason I can give mercy.
I am loved with the greatest love in the universe, and for that reason I can love without reservation. 

No comments:

Post a Comment