My son and I got a little sideways last week and my feelings were hurt. I went to bed mad, woke up mad, and it was obvious to both of us that morning that I hadn’t let it go.
I wanted him to apologize for not treating me more carefully. I wanted him to admit his part in our relational rift. But nope, he continued packing his lunch and gathering up his belongings for school as usual.
As a proper apology was obviously not forthcoming, I grew harder. I wanted him to feel a bit of what I was feeling – I wanted him to hurt too.
“Bye, mom. I love you.” he said, standing behind me as I rinsed out my coffee mug in the sink. Usually we would hug each other goodbye at this point in the morning, but not today. “Bye.” I said flatly, bitterly, not turning around as he walked out the door. And I call myself a Christian.
What kind of mother wants her son to hurt? But this is what sin does. This is what I did. Sin is satisfied when others feel as bad as we do. It’s glad to see others get what they deserve. It justifies a turned back and stony silence from a mother to her child. Sin is ugly, cold, and crouching at the door waiting to eat you alive. And I had sinned.
Father, forgive me.
“I’m so sorry.” I texted him during his second period after some serious soul-searching. “Please forgive me for not treating you with more care. I was wrong. I love you.”
We are not Christians if we are unwilling to forgive. We might go to church and memorize our Bibles front to back, but if we cling to spite; if we hold stubbornly to our self-justice, we are far from the heart of God.
For the heart of God is Jesus. And God’s own son drew in a raggedgy breath and said, “Forgive them, Father.” before he was crushed under the weight of all humanity’s spite and stiff-backed sin.
To be a Christian means more than being moral people on the right side of history. It means that we share in the suffering of Christ in this particular way: It means we cannot call ourselves Christian if we refuse to forgive.
To enter in the suffering of Jesus means that we forgive our enemies and our betrayers. We forgive our mockers and our opponents. We suffer with Christ as we forgive those who have abandoned us; rejected us; denied us when we needed them most.
And this divine forgiveness (for we can’t do it without God’s help), when it is offered for love of God to those who aren’t asking for it – who don’t deserve it – is what sets us free.
It is forgiveness that releases us from the death-grip of self-preservation and self-justice. Only forgiveness can kick the teeth out of what crouches, insatiably hungry, at the door of every human heart. For when we forgive our neighbor, even the neighbor who lives under our roof, we place ourselves squarely and safely into God’s wise, just, and most careful hands.
The world is sideways. All is not well. And considering our human condition it’s likely that someone will (intentionally or not) hurt our feelings, trigger our pain, or wound us deeply today. But what marks us most? The way of the cross or the way of the world?
To whom is your back firmly turned? Who needs to apologize before you will turn your face towards them? Who would you like to see get a strong taste of their own medicine?
What offense or hurt are you unwilling to let go? Who will not get your forgiveness until they change their attitude? Who are you making pay until they show you more care and consideration?
And what in your own heart needs to be identified; crucified, because it is making your spirit cold, ugly and hard?
Your Father already knows all these things. He sees into your heart and knows your frame. He won’t force himself on you, but he will help you if you ask with a humble cry, for forgiveness is his very heart.
Cast your hurts on him for he cares for you. And may you know and enjoy God’s better kind of peace for you today and always.