Forgiveness is love
I think a mother is one whose forgiveness is always one-step ahead of our mistakes. No matter how many times we spill on the living room couch, Mom always forgives us one more. No matter how many times we come in late, mom always forgives us for one more. No matter how many times we forget to say thank you. Mom always forgives us for one more. No matter how many fibs we tell, how many messes we make, how many muddy footprints we leave, No matter how many snotty noses we have, there is always one more Kleenex. No matter how many skinned knees, there is always one more kiss. Mom’s arms are always open; there is always enough forgiveness for one more.
I know that is not every mom is like that, but mine is. I am pretty sure that after 48 years, my mom has already forgiven me for 100 years of mistakes. That’s just who she is.
If your mom is not like that, maybe you have a grandma or an aunt or maybe the mother of your children. Dag Hammarskjold is quoted as saying “Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle- by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.”
“What is broken is made whole and what is soiled is made clean.” That is forgiveness.
That dream is not always our reality. The truth of our lives is that often what is broken remains broken and what is soiled remains soiled. The brokenness and filth of our lives does not easily give birth to love.
Too often in our perpetual brokenness, we hold on to Grudges and regrets,
I have told you the story before about the bitter man who came across a magic genie who granted him one wish; the catch being that whatever he wished for, his worst enemy would get double. He thought and thought. He thought about wealth, and power and property and fame and eternal life and health; but couldn’t bear to see his worst enemy get twice as much as he got. Finally he said, “I know, Genie, I wish to be blinded in one eye.” What a waste. What a waste it is when we hold on to grudges and regrets.
On the other hand it is no better when we live out of revenge which seeks only to generate fear.
A woman bought a parrot for a pet. All the parrot did was treat her bad. It insulted her and every time she tried to pick it up, it would peck at her arm.
One day she got fed up with the parrot and as it was insulting her she picked it up, it continued with the insults.."you're ugly! I can't stand you!" and it pecked at her arm as she carried it. She opened the freezer door and threw him in and closed the door. From inside, the parrot was still going on for about 5 seconds and then it was suddenly quiet.
She thought, "Oh no, I killed it!" She open the door and the parrot just looked at her. She picked it up. Then the parrot said:"I'm very sorry. I apologize for my bad behavior and promise you there will be no more of that. From now on, I will be a respectful, obedient parrot."
"Well OK" she said. "apology accepted". The parrot said "Thank you". Then he said, "Can I ask you something?" She said, "Yes, What?"
And the parrot looked at the freezer and asked, "What did the Chicken do?"
She got her well behaved parrot by fear. Usually fear and revenge don’t work out that well. No better than grudges and regrets.
God has a much better model for us.
It would be easy to say love is the better model and ultimately it is. But I had not noted until this week that Jesus words about love that we talked about last week, “As I have loved you, so you must also love one another.” Are sandwiched between Jesus predictions of Judas betrayal and Peter’s denial.
In 20 short verses Jesus says one of you will hand me over to be killed.
As I have loved you, love one another.
Peter, before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.
Isn’t that interesting? It is essentially a love sandwich on a bun of tragedy and betrayal, heavy on the denial. What a heartbreaking passage. The good news is that Jesus, like my mom, is really good at forgiveness had, I am sure, already forgiven them for what they would do next.
Could you do that? When you are stuck between being betrayed on the right and being denied on the left, does your mind turn to love?
When you are stuck with a backstabbing friend on the right and an angry stranger on the left does your heart automatically overflow with love?
When you are trapped between those who would hurt you physically and those who would hurt you emotionally, is it love that overflows of something else that boils over?
In Ephesians 4:31 Paul writes, Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: 4:32 and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.
But how do we do that? Let’s take that Ephesians passage apart.
1. It starts with feelings. Like bitterness, and wrath, and anger, what are we supposed to do with those? It says those things must be put away. In other words don’t dwell on what happened. Don’t live in the past. Don’t keep digging it up for yourself or for others.
How many times in an argument do people say things like “but you always” or “remember when” or “I never forgave you for.” We can’t do that. We have to let go of the past. Lilly Tomlin says, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” We can’t change the past-- let it go. And with it all of the negative emotions that went with it.
Now, I don’t mean to say that it won't come in to my mind. I don’t believe in forgive and forget. But we don’t have to live there either. When it comes up, we can push it aside.
The first step in forgiveness, then is saying I won’t dwell on what happened. I am moving on emotionally.
2. Then we have to say “I will not talk to other people about what happened.” “It's not open for discussion.. In Ephesians Paul calls this “clamor, and railing” Those are the ways we keep bringing it up to other people. “You know he is such a back stabber.” I’ll never forget when he .” “ I don’t know what you think, but I think he is a . . . “
Those are all ways of keeping the hurt alive. Keeping the damage growing. The more we talk the more people who know what that so and so did, the better.
Sometimes we do this under the guise of warning others what the person is like. Sometimes under the pretence of “talking it through.” And occasionally we do need to warn others. Occasionally we do need to talk thorough our feelings, but mostly we just want sympathy and we want to keep the hurt growing.
So Paul says, put away your clamoring and your railing. In other words move on verbally
So first we have to move onemotinally, then we move on verbally
3. Third we have to promise that we will not use what happened against the person.
Paul talks about putting away malice. Now, malice is more than anger, it is meanness. It is mean to use someone’s past to haunt them! It is mean to keep beating someone up with what they did in the past. They can’t change it, and is there is no benefit for anyone in that.
It has been said that “Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. “That is the only way to let the relationship move past the hurt.
This is where we move on relationally
4. Finally, Paul writes “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.”
This might be the most misunderstood part of forgiveness. We ask, “If they put my child in danger does forgiveness mean I have to use that babysitter again.” No, but instead of saying you are the most irresponsible person I have ever known, I can never trust you again,” we can say, ”I know you didn’t mean to and you are forgiven, but I am just not comfortable leaving my child with you right now.”
We don’t have to pretend nothing happened. Maybe we learned something. Maybe they learned something. We hope so. But we should not continue to treat the person badly. I like Paul’s word here, Tenderhearted; to me that is with respect for their feelings and care for them as a person. It doesn’t mean we have to behave recklessly or gush all over them.
Maybe things can return to the way they were. Maybe not. It is not automatic. Things may never be the same. We have to be safe and smart. The key is that we have a responsibility to establish new boundaries and rules. We have to reestablish the relationship.
So to summarize.
Move on emotionally
move on verbally
Move on relationally
Reestablish the relationship
Refusing to forgive and holding the anger inside is like drinking a glass of poison; then sitting down to wait for your enemy to die.
Sometimes we act as though Paul wrote 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be pent up inside of you, with all malice: but he didn’t.
He was helping us to love as a mother loves. To love as Jesus loved. To love as God loves.
Forgiveness is love for the hard times. Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Hey that sounds an awful lot like “As I have loved you, Love one another.”
As Jesus has forgiven you, forgive one another.
“What is broken is made whole and what is soiled is made clean.” That is forgiveness.