Forgiveness : Cut That Out!
Do the requirements of the Bible ever get “in your way?” One of our nation’s founding fathers, none other than Thomas Jefferson, is reported to have taken a sharp object (scissors or a razor, depending on whose account you believe) to the King James Bible whereupon he cut away all the parts that he found disagreeable. You’ve been tempted along those same lines, haven’t you? I know that I have.
I think that my first cut would be in what we commonly call “The Lord’s Prayer.” That irksome bit about “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” constantly bothers my sentiments. I know I’ll require some sharp scissors, because that is only one of many places where Jesus links our forgiveness by God to the measure with which we forgive others. For example, Matthew 6:14-16 says if we won’t forgive then we won’t be forgiven. Most of Matthew, chapter 18, is also about forgiving and includes a parable about an “unforgiving servant.” It was soon after this portion of Matthew when Peter asked Jesus how many times one should forgive another. Peter thought seven times was plenty. Some days I’d consider Peter to be generous. Jesus said one’s forgiveness ought to be more – a whole lot more: seventy times seven! I’d probably need to cut out that part too, wouldn’t I?
So now I need to come up with a plan to keep my Bible from ending up looking like “Swiss Cheese!” Jefferson’s solution was to glue the bits of Scripture that he decided to keep onto clean, white paper and have those bound together into a new volume. This is beginning to sound like a whole lot of work to me! Perhaps I’d be better off reexamining my aversion to forgiveness.
Please allow me to be blunt. Forgiveness is hard! When someone has wronged us, forgiving them goes against every animalistic urge within us. Every fiber of our being cries out for retribution. We’ve been wronged. We’ve been hurt! We demand justice! At that, God says to forgive.
In reply, God says to me, “I’ve been wronged. I’ve been hurt… by YOU.” And I forgave. Now, you go and do likewise. I certainly can’t argue with that.
This issue of forgiveness came up again just this week. I was wronged and had to work through that process of moving beyond my desires for justice and into the Spirit of forgiveness – where God resides. I’ll be honest. It was difficult, as are most things that truly matter in life. It would have been so much easier to grab a pair of scissors and start cutting away at Matthew, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37 and Colossians 3:13.
Odd thing, though. Jefferson’s Gospel account ended with Jesus in the grave. No resurrection. I’ve got a funny feeling that my Bible – without forgiveness – would end in much the same way. Forgiveness is essential to the Christian message, not only to our entering into life with God, but also to our daily living for Him with others. Forgiveness was central to Jesus’ message. It should be the first reflex of His followers.
Pray for me. I’m sure there are other knuckleheads out there. There’ll be plenty more forgiving yet to do. And I’ll pray for you for the share of the forgiving that you’re called to do. Someday, if we all keep practicing, forgiveness will become second nature, as common to us as breathing. Oh Lord, let that day come quickly.
Praying forgiveness to you,