Sunday, January 13, 2008

My Way Sunday
. . . . .
reflections on being a Christian man, part 10
[final segment of this series]

How many times have you gone to another person and asked them to forgive you?

How many times has someone come to you and asked you to forgive them?

Forgiveness is at the heart of it all. Jesus' death on the cross was all about forgiveness. Early in Matthew's gospel I hear an admonition to put forgiveness before my giving to the Lord. In his gospel, Matthew writes in Chapter 5, verses 23-24:
23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,
24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Later in his gospel, Matthew again highlights the importance of forgiveness by its presence in the Lord's Prayer. Chapter 6, verse 12 reads:
12 and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
This is followed in verses 14-15 by the words:
14 If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

So Matthew, throughout, teaches us the importance of forgiveness. As a Christian man, I am bound to follow the great example that Jesus gave and taught. Matthew records another story of Jesus in Chapter 18, verses 21-25. In it I am given an example of what forgiveness might look like in practice.
21 Then Peter approaching asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
22 Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
23 That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
24 When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
25 Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.
26 At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'
27 Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.
28 When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.'
29 Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
30 But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.
31 Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
32 His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
33 Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?'
34 Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
35 So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."

To me, all of this implies courteousness, kindness, humility, gentleness and mutual assistance. The attributes a Christian man carries in his arsenal of character traits are numerous. I need to learn them all, and recognize that forgiveness is a highly favored virtue.

And for those time when I get angry, I believe these passages suggest that I remain calm when someone offends me - remain calm, and grant forgiveness when asked for it ... hold no grudges. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?

In an incident where I was assigning various people to tasks for an upcoming dinner, I had a test. At a planning committee meeting, only days before the event, one of the key people on the team told me he wasn't going to be in town the day of the event , and in fact wouldn't be around to finish the preparations needed for his aspect of the dinner - I blew up. It was very uncharacteristic of me, but it happened. It so affected the individual, he got up and walked out of the meeting.

After the meeting I went to his home to ask his forgiveness. To make it harder, his wife answered the door and said he wasn't available. I had to beg her to coax him into coming outside and talking with me. She did - he did - I did. It all worked out, and we're still good friends today.

You ever had to 'eat crow'? Care to tell us about it?
. . . . .


justin said...

Once upon a time, I had a girlfriend for over a year, and then we separated. For about the last month of our relationship, and the following two months, I logged into her email account and read her email. That is the hardest time I've ever had to 'eat crow' and actually followed through. We are still friends! Only through Jesus.

You're right, forgiveness (and asking for it!!) needs to be ever more a part of our relationships. Thanks for the reminder. How difficult, yet revealing. So counterintuitive. Let's make it intuitive!

uncle jim said...

you are so correct.
and, as in many cases, the other party may not even be aware there was an offense committed.
way to own up.
often times it is a matter of justice that needs to be recognized. Asking forgiveness is the first step - making restitution when called for is still another.

Melody said...

Eaten crow. Yes. I work in a materials lab for a manufacturing company. All of us in the lab have a specialty. Mine is chemistry. We were having a department meeting a while back, and our supervisor, "Sam", announced that he wanted cross-training on all instruments, so that there is a back-up person for everything. Which made sense. Anyway he said that he wanted me to train "Lois" on the ICP, which is an instrument for analyzing for metals and certain transition elements. Well, I know that Lois has zero chemistry background, so I suggest that "Bob" might be a better choice. Sam said he would think about it. Later in the day, Bob takes me aside, and says, "You really stirred up a hornet's nest. Lois thinks you think she is too dumb to learn the ICP, because she never went to college." Oh. Shoot. Lois is hypersensitive, so I should have been more tactful with my words. The only thing to do was go apologize to her, which I did. I told her I would be happy to teach her anything she needed to bring her up to speed on the ICP (which was lying a little bit; but I was willing if not eager). She calmed down, and things were defused. Sam ended up changing his mind, and Lois didn't have to learn it, which I think was a relief to her. But no one likes a put-down, even unintended; so I have learned to be more careful in my words.

uncle jim said...

it is hard, isn't it?
we have to be so careful of what we say.
even when we go to people to ask their forgiveness, the usual response of something like "Oh, its OK - I've already forgotten about it."
The reality is they haven't forgotten ... and their words certainly didn't grant forgiveness. Their heart is still harboring resentment and hurt.
it is hard to achieve - today's society isn't used to it.
share more often, please. i can often identify with your comments.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I were helping on a marriage preparation team. Close to the weekend we were to present a talk we had done before, my husband said we could not do it. I had to call and cancel leaving the people in charge with little time to find a new couple to do the 'sex' talk. It was very painful to me and I could not explain the difficulties we had begun to experience in our marriage that made it hypocritical and difficult for us to continue. You can only hope and pray friends know you and give you the benefit of the doubt when uncharacteristic things occur.

uncle jim said...

which brings up an aspect i didn't really reference. when someone we know behaves uncharacteristically, perhaps a little extra effort and forbearance is called for.