The very first Sunday at my present church appointment I stood in the pulpit and asked everyone to forgive me. I still remember the quizzical looks, the sudden drawback in the pew wondering what had I done, the raised eyebrows, and even the few quiet gasps. But, as I explained that everyone has expectations of a new pastor and I was sure at some point in time, however near or far, however intentional or not, I would disappoint those expectations.
I was a human being, Pastor Obvious and was bound to do that in some small or hopefully not significant way. So, I was asking for forgiveness ahead of time so that when it happened each person in the church would have already decided to forgive me and we would move forward together.
As I sad yesterday, forgiveness is part of God’s executive plan of sharing His grace with us. and how we share grace with others. Abstaining from forgiveness leaves us bound to our anger, our malice, our hurts, and our own blind bias. One of the first things that’s affected by malnourishment is our eyes, our vision. Having an unwillingness to forgive means we are starving our own soul.
Abstaining from forgiveness is our sign that our vision fails to distinguish between what is real and what is ideal. It would be ideal if everybody did the right thing but we know all of us fail to say or do the right thing sometime.
Let’s get real. Being entitled to abstain from forgiveness means you want an entitlement to be treated perfectly. It’s not going to happen. It can’t happen even if everyone tried because you’re not perfect. Sometimes, your take on what people are doing will be wrong.
Believe me, Pastor Paranoid… I mean, Pastor Obvious, I know this happens. So, go ahead today and decide, “If anyone does me wrong, I forgive them. If anyone does my friends wrong, I forgive them. If anyone does my country wrong, I forgive them. If anyone tries to talk to me about my short-tempered attitude, I forgive them… and if given a moment to calm and compose myself, we can talk about things and move forward together.”
It was obvious. “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times,’ And Peter went outside and wept bitterly. The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, ‘Prophesy! Who hit you?’ And they said many other insulting things to him.” (Luke 22: 61 – 65)
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth”, (Isaiah 53: 7) except to say… I AM the Son of God… and I forgive. (Luke 22: 66 – 71, 23: 24)