Two-fer Tuesday: Forgiveness by Deacon Blue

Forgiving is hard, but it is necessary. God requires it of us. He forgives us (as does Jesus) and so we are expected to do the same. But we often don’t. Must we forgive everyone all the time? And if we do, doesn’t that just let them off the hook for their bad behavior?

Possibly, but aren’t you pretty happy that God is letting you off the hook for your bad behavior thanks to Jesus’ atoning death at Calvary?

Let’s look at a couple passages of Bible scripture first.

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew chapter 18, verses 21-22)

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke chapter 6, verses 27-36)

I know that Miz Pink in her post today on forgiveness already talks about the debt we owe and the debts owed us when it comes to doing wrong and forgiving wrongs. I won’t re-tread her points. I’m going to talk about more practical issues. The kind of shit that all of us ask when we are called upon to forgive.

So, I can stop forgiving a person after he or she had wronged me 490 times?

Don’t be so freaking literal. Jesus is telling us that we must be willing to forgive over and over and over again. That should be clear when you look at what he says in Luke.

So, then, we have to forgive everyone no matter what?

Yes and no. We do need to forgive everyone in the sense that we cannot cling to resentment or hate. Even if a person kills my child, I must be willing to let it go. That doesn’t mean forgetting the wrong (that’s God’s job; besides, it’s way too hard for a mere mortal to do), but it does mean we cannot keep thinking about it. If we won’t let go, we not only refuse to give a gift that we are all too happy to receive from God but we also eat ourselves up inside. Forgiving doesn’t mean that you should give up an appropriate recompense or seek justice where appropriate. But you cannot be malicious about it and you have to be able to give it over to God ultimately instead of holding anger in your heart.

Another important thing is to focus on the word “brother” in the first passage I quoted above. We must forgive everyone, but the more intimate focus is on those of us to whom we are literally related and those to whom we are related through our born-again status: our brothers and sisters in Christ. To those people, we have an even higher duty to not only forgive but to be willing to embrace them.

So, I’ve got to let people just walk all over me?

Sometimes, but not really. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to keep putting yourself in a position to be hurt by that person. If a relative steals from you every time he or she stays at your place, then forgive him or her, but stop inviting that person over! Use some common sense. I’m not advocating that you just cut off everyone at the slightest slight, but do be willing to know when it’s a losing proposition. Also, Jesus may have told us to turn the other cheek, but he didn’t tell us to also turn our butt cheeks once both facial cheeks have been reddened and he didn’t tell us to offer up the cheeks of others. There are times when you may have to defend yourself or someone else, either verbally or physically. We are told in the Bible to “live in peace as much as is possible,” so clearly there are times when either running away or standing to fight is the immediate choice, with forgiveness something to deal with later.


5 Responses to “Two-fer Tuesday: Forgiveness by Deacon Blue”

  1. 1 WNG
    July 1, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    You know I’m having some forgiveness …issues… at the moment.
    Thanks for this – it’s something to think about, work on and pray on…which I have been doing, but I haven’t really meant it, you know? It’s hard to get past the anger or to let the anger go so even when I pray on it the anger is still there. Not as much as it used to be…but it’s still there.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    July 1, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Yeah, aside from lust I think anger is one of the easiest emotions to latch onto…but it’s even harder than lust to shed I think. Yeah, between anger, jealousy, lust, vanity and all them, it’s anger that causes most of our troubles, internally and externally. I’ve got you in my prayers, WNG…here’s hoping you can move past the wall soon. 🙂

  3. 3 Inda Pink
    July 1, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Sorry to hear ya still dealing with the forgiveness issue(s) you’ve been struggling with. On teh bright side, you’ve been an inspiration for subject matter lately what with Deke doing a couple posts on hell recently and now this two-fer on forgiveness. Like the Deacon, I’ll add ya to my prayer list. I think I can just squeeze ya in…yeah…there’s just a little room left in the margin right there…

  4. 4 WNG
    July 2, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Thank you guys. I am trying to get past it and to give it up. It’s hard since it’s family and there’s no getting away and there also isn’t going to be an apology. Everyone else thinks I’ve moved on – and mostly I have, but there’s still that kernel of anger and pain in my heart that I can’t let go of. I want to, because it’s hurting me just as much, if not more, than what started this…but so far I haven’t been able to. Prayer shrinks it and Grace keeps me from being torn up with it but it doesn’t go away. I can’t let it go.
    Not that you needed to know all this BUT I just wanted to say that you’ve given me more to think about and pray on, so thank you.

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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