The Inescapable Responsibility of Forgiveness
Have you ever tried to get out of something that you found yourself trapped in?
You are hemmed in on all sides, the pressure continues to mount, and you feel like there is no escape? When I was 8 years old, I went to a lake with my family to swim. My cousins and my aunt and uncle were there with me and my family. Two of my cousins were older than I was. They were challenging me to go out into the deeper water with them. I felt a caution, not that I couldn’t swim, but that the waves from the boats were making the water rough. Not wanting to fail the challenge, I kept stepping out further and further. I remember looking back at the shore to see if my mom and dad could see me. I was feeling quite proud of myself at this point. In a split second it happened: the waves overtook me and I felt myself go under. Being a lake, it was murky water, and I couldn’t see anything. The waves kept crashing on top of me, and I kept flailing to reach the top. I know that a human body can only go a certain without air, but it felt like an eternity under water. As hard as I struggled, I could not reach the top. I was trapped, hemmed in on all sides, and I felt like I could not escape. Just as I felt my mind going from panic to blackout, I felt an arm scoop me up. My dad carried me out of the water and onto my beach towel.
Maybe like me, you have been in a physical place of no escape. But have you ever been in a place of emotional “no escape”? Words were said that you wish you could take back. Self control was lost that you wish you had demonstrated. And way too much time had lapsed between a needed conversation.
Forgiveness can feel like being trapped, when we don’t want to do it. If we follow Jesus, there is no escape clause when it comes to forgiveness. And it goes both ways. We are called to forgive one another when they offend us, and we are called to ask for forgiveness when we offend someone else. And the kicker is, either way, we are called to initiate the reconciliation!
Time and time again. Remember when Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times do I have to forgive my brother?” And Jesus said, “70 x 7”, which meant “as many times as it takes” (Matthew 18:21-22). Then Jesus went on to tell a parable about a debtor who had his own enormous debt forgiven by the Master, but then wouldn’t go out and forgive a small debt toward someone else.
Friends, if we are to live life with our heads above water and shine our lights for Jesus, we never shine so brightly, as when we forgive, and when we ask for forgiveness. Both ways call us to put away our pride and put others before ourselves. We have to let go of our rights. We have to value the relationship more than who was right or wrong. “Go and be reconciled to your brother.” Just like Jesus did, just like Jesus does!
We never shine so brightly as when we forgive another!
Speak Truth Love