Last night Dave and I enjoyed a webcam visit with Brent, Becky, and Austyn Grace, with the free addition of audio from Uncle Bryan, on skype from Honolulu to Georgia! Zeus, the huskey-shepherd mix we “dog sat” for this summer captured Austyn Grace’s heart. Imagine how deflating for us to get on the webcam, say “Hi Austyn Grace,” and hear back, “Hi Zeus.” Nothing like a taste of humble pie! But who can take offense at that adorable blond cutie? We laughed at her child-like desire to ask about the dog instead of her grandparents. As we grow up, other relationships prove more challenging.
Whether through ignorance, weakness or deliberate fault, we sin against each other repeatedly. Retaliation, in a myriad of forms or offering the grace of forgiveness follows. And those resulting actions dictate mental, physical and spiritual consequences. The sad truth, that we sin in thought, word and deed against both God and man, afflicts us all. The good news of the Gospel says that in genuine sorrow, we can turn to the Father repeatedly and find in Him One ready to absolve us once again. Easier to say than to practice.
Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, spells out some specifics about forgiveness that I find helpful. He begins with my need for humility, then what he calls “emotional wealth,” and concludes with a biblical look at the character of forgiveness. Obedience comes before feelings. In Luke 17:3-10 Jesus illustrates this: “If he [your brother] sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says,’I repent,’ forgive him” Actions and disciplines, not feelings, underscore forgiveness. I promise not to exact the price I determine from the one who has wronged me. The apostle Paul echoes the idea in Ephesians 4:32 when he writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The fact that learning to forgive is difficult does not absolve us from working at the task, perhaps by starting by seeking a bit more humility this very day.