“Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
Forgiveness has been on my heart and mind for some time now. One of the most painful gifts to give and to recieve, forgiveness is a challenge I have faced several times in my life.
We don’t live in a very forgiving world. I find myself awfully unforgiving at times. How many times have I seethed in anger as a driver cut me off in a lane? It hurts to be wronged. I don’t understand it. I get angry and want to lash back.
There have been a few moments in my life where I have felt the bitter pain of true hatred. At times, it has hurt so bad I could hardly bear it. The thought of forgiving such an offender seems impossible.
It hurts to be cheated on, lied to, and misunderstood because of the color of your skin or your ethnicity. Hasn’t everyone been wronged at some time? The pain is so real it can be unbearable.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
The story of how the sinful woman came to Jesus and threw herself down at his feet with perfumed oil in gratitude pulls at my heart every time I hear it.
It is because I am much like that woman.
I am not quite sure what she did, but she had a reputation among the legalistic religious leaders as a “sinner”. I am sure she had baggage. I am sure she was a hot mess at times. I am sure she hurt others. Maybe she cursed a lot, or had too many men hanging around. Whatever the case, she was judged by those who lived around her.
If I were to lie to you all, I would pretend I was perfect. I would sit here and say to forgive others becuase it is the right thing to do. I would say things like it feels good to forgive or that you should do it to come out on top and be the bigger person.
However, I believe that there is so much more to forgiveness that Jesus is teaching me. It is much less about my offender’s heart and much more about my heart.
I am the offender.
I am a lustful, greedy, selfish person. As I observe my nature, I see that I do things I don’t want to do much of the time, as Paul said in his letter. I want to be kind, loving, and faithful. Often times I am not those things. I am at war within myself much of the time. I say things I wish I could take back. I forget to consider people going through death, loss, and health problems. I might lash out at my child for pushing me when I am tired. I might get on my husbands case for no good reason at all. There is at least one episode a week where I wish I could better control my emotions.
When I was a young girl, I made many mistakes. I gave myself away to the world, hoping for a fun and successful life in exchange. I often recieved heart break instead. I hoped in charmful people who made lofty promises and left me alone and in tears. I compromised my standards thinking things and people could fill the giant hole in my heart. In the end, I realized the hole was bigger than before.
When I heard about Jesus, my heart stirred. I had heard of Christians, and for the most part I wanted nothing to do with that. It scared me.
Then I heard the stories. Forgiveness. Love. My soul yearned for forgiveness. I knew I had done things I regret, said things I wish I could take back. I knew I had hurt people for selfish gain. I longed to stop doing that.
I was like that girl walking into a room filled with Pharisees. I felt dirty, tired, and heart broken by the world. I felt misunderstood, ashamed, and fraudulent. I felt myself moving past all that guilt and mockery of the righteous people who say following Jesus is a set of rules and moved toward the light and hope of Love of God. The night I met Christ I shoved my way through the jeering voices in my head telling me to try harder or clean myself up before entering the presence of God…
and as I thrust myself forward into his presence without much thought and begged him for help and forgivness every voice hushed. The only voice I heard was the voice of forgiveness. I knew in that moment I was loved and forgiven. My heart, although still damaged and torn, was filled with what I had been searching for my whole life.
Why is forgiveness so important? Because it was God first who forgave us and modeled the importance of forgiveness for our souls.
Is forgiving others easy for me to do? No. I have often done it through tears. Many times I have wrestled with God in fear of confronting those who have hurt me.
Yet, the feeling of being forgiven outweighs the hurt others thrust upon me. The freedom I have gained from the love and grace of God gives me freedom to loosen up my expectations of others and give them a little grace, too. Because I have walked in those shoes before, and I know I have been the offender.
Grace is such a counter-intuitive gift. It is so beautiful that it cannot go unnoticed. Forgiveness is grace extended to someone else when they really don’t deserve it. I will ever be grateful for the grace extended to me, and I hope my response in gratitude to God will be the ability to extend grace to others as he has done for me.