I used to love watching Little House on the Prairie. What a great show with such a contrast in characters. Charles and Carolyn Ingalls are loving and hardworking and Mrs. Olsen and Nellie Olsen are mean, vindictive and entitled. Such great lessons in each show!
Recently I was reflecting on that show when I was thinking about forgiveness. Over my lifetime I’ve had some people hurt me in ways that would be considered to the world “unforgiveable sins.” You know the ones. The big ones. The ones that people say that once they carry out these unforgiveable sins they can never change. Well that makes sense if there were no God, but in my world there is God and God is Love. In fact I’ve heard it said that the entire bible can be summed up with the word love. When all else fails Love.
Now I don’t mean doormat Love. I don’t mean putting yourself in harms way over and over. I mean God’s definition of love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
It was that one sentence that made me realize I as Mrs. Olsen. “It keeps no record of wrongs.” Mrs. Olsen knew everything everyone had ever done and always used it against them. I do the same thing. I don’t think I use it against people, but I do guard my heart with it. “They’ve done this before, they’ll do it again.” But God says I can’t keep a record of wrongs if I love. I’ll never forget a bible study I did one time and we drew a picture of our image of the throne room of God. Around his throne in Revelation 4: 6 was a sea of glass. It reminded me of the “sea of forgetfulness” that God casts ours sins into. The sea is ever before his throne because he’s always ready to cast our sins into them. Is that me? Do I cast people sins including my own, into the sea of forgetfulness or like Mrs. Olsen do I keep a tally?
Well if I’m honest sometimes I keep a tally. It’s hard not to. I’m human. In some of my deepest hours of pain and crying out to the Lord he reminded me that I know nothing of why people choose hurt me or what’s going on with them. He also reminded me of his authority to forgive whoever he pleases. That’s the grace we all want, I’m not sure as a church it’s the grace we all give. I think as a church we have a formula. “When they repent and turn, when they apologize, etc.” But God calls us to love people in the midst of their sin. “I know you are struggling with…. but I love you anyway. I’m here for you.” We see pastors who fall and they are presented to the church and they are repentant and the church forgives, but what if they weren’t repentant yet? Would we still treat them with the same love? What if our love is what can help them get to repentance?
I’m currently choosing to love a few people who have not repented. They aren’t even sorry. But I trust God to carry out his perfect will in their lives with the help of my love lavished on them that they don’t deserve. After all, that’s what God does for us. He lavishes love on us we don’t deserve.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. There are also a couple of people that just aren’t safe for me and I have to keep at an arms distance to protect myself. But I can still love them in my prayer life before the Lord hoping that someday they will see what they are doing. Forgiveness looks different for all of us. Forgiveness isn’t absolution. It isn’t saying what they did was o.k. It’s simply saying that I am not going to keep a record of wrongs. We do it with our children when they are small quite easily. When they break something we are quick to forgive. I’d like to learn how to be that forgiving all the time.
In the last year God has changed the way I look at forgiveness. God calls us to forgive the unforgiveable because he’s forgiven us. He doesn’t call us to “bring them to repentance, or make them apologize,” or anything else for that matter. That’s His work. Our work is to Love. This world could sure use a whole lot more love and it’s got to start with me.