More times than I care to recall, I’ve had to apologize to someone for something I’ve done or said. On occasion, I’ve been wronged too. Actually, by my count, I’ve been wronged quite a lot. Funny isn’t it how we remember so clearly those hurts done to us while being mostly able to forget the hurts we’ve done to others?
The community of the Church is supposed to be different from what we normally find in the life around us. We are supposed to be a people who acknowledge and repent of our sins against God and one another. We are supposed to be a people who both seek and grant forgiveness in order to create reconciliation.
Where has grace gone?
We are hurt, and we withdraw from one another. It is easier to allow a chasm to grow between us instead of speaking honestly. We wake up one day to realize that our relationships are gone. Hard hearts create relational distance.
When I harbor a grudge, it gives me a feeling of power and control. I can stay mad at someone for long periods of time, all along nursing my hurt, and thinking destructive thoughts. I like that feeling of power. To seek reconciliation forces me to confront my own sinful hostility and self-pity. It is much more fun to stay in my isolation bubble, listening only to my dark thoughts, harboring bitterness to those who’ve hurt me.
Repentance and forgiveness are gifts, not a curse. They allow me to identify and name my sins, my grievances, and my pain. They allow me to apply a healing touch to a wound that otherwise goes ignored. Repentance is the first step in healing, but instead, I view it as a challenge to my pride and independence. Forgiveness is Christ-likeness that transforms me has much as it gives grace to the one who hurt me. God wants more for us than wallowing in anger, but this isn’t easy. Is it? We too easily live in this cycle of hurt and experience that pain over and over. Finding no rest. Finding no peace.
To offer forgiveness does not mean that an abused person must expose themselves to more abuse. Forgiveness does not mean that we must forget or pretend there was no hurt. Forgiveness is not the act of sweeping hurt under the rug. Forgiveness is — in the most perfect sense — the point where I no longer count a person’s sins against them. I know forgiveness has occurred in my heart when I no longer feel as if the one who hurt me owes me anything. I choose to release my debtor from his debt to me.
Last week, I reported on a controversy that was stirred up in the Christian blogosphere. I have no desire to rehash it now, I only want to point that a sincere apology was offered, but for several critics, it was not enough. Their criticism continued, and some blatantly refused to accept his apology stating that they felt it was insincere. It was so…ugly and self-righteous. Worse, after I posted on the topic, the hits to my blog sky-rocketed for two days. My thoughts were picked up by a couple of other bloggers. The blogosphere loved the ugliness.
Jesus tells the truth that transcends our world and our way of being. He tells us to forgive without reservation or limitation. He tells us to show grace even to those with whom we disagree. Where has forgiveness gone? Where is grace? Where in these conflicts is the face of Jesus? When I stop to give it any thought, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I brought attention to the controversy in my (very tiny) corner of the internet. Jesus wasn’t exalted in any of it. Lord, forgive us.