Forgive as the Lord forgave you
April 2, 2021 | Mark McDowell
Editor's Note: This year’s Lenten Devotional from Presbyterians Today invites us to reflect upon the gift of Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace:
“In the Bible, shalom can be translated not only as peace, but also as tranquility, security, well-being, health, welfare, completeness, and safety.” The writer goes on to encourage, “How can we each receive this gift of shalom and, in turn, bestow it upon the world?”
On this journey, we’ve come through 33 days and 5 Sundays since Ash Wednesday, when we reflected on “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” Now we arrive at Holy Week beginning with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his death on a cross, and the joy of his resurrection. This process reminds us that in Christ, God was reconciling the world.
In the aforementioned devotional, Ivy Lopedito, Christian Brooks, and Donna Frischknecht Jackson highlight one way forward:
“As we journey through Holy Week, think of hurts, grudges, and hatred that need to be nailed to the cross and laid to rest in a tomb. Think about the healing power of reconciliation and where you have seen it in your life.”
Join us this week as we consider all these things and seek God’s presence on our journey.
About the author: Mark McDonald has been a part of ZPC since the middle school cafeteria days, having grown up as a youth in the church. He has served as an elder, in missions, youth ministry leadership, and in the worship ministry. Mark is married to Jennifer and they have 4 kids - Nico, Marco, Chesa, and Zia.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. -Colossians 3:13
Here on Good Friday, we reach the beginning of the culmination of the Father's audacious and resolute plan to reconcile humanity to himself - with his son willingly enduring betrayal, scorn, pain, and injustice on the way to that accomplishment. This standard of forgiveness, and depth of undertaking, defied what any person had conceived, and continues to be a wonder to behold whenever we walk through the story of Christ.
The Bible also lays out in the gospels (Mark 11:25), in Paul's letters (Eph 4:32), in Proverbs (17:9) that it is our challenge to forgive and reconcile with one another as well. If I stop and am truly honest with myself on my track record of being successful at this in my lifetime, the picture sometimes looks quite grim. Years ago I entered into a turbulent period with a close friend after watching him make a couple of choices that were, in my eyes, a betrayal and going against a specific plan we had discussed and laid out together – choices that caused great hurt to both myself, and to another friend. It was easy to cut him out of my life in anger – feeling righteous and justified in my isolating actions.
After months of not returning his attempts to contact me, I knew that 'the right thing to do' was probably to apologize and figure out how to move forward. I went back earlier this Holy Week and re-read my 'apology' that I wrote many years ago to make sure I didn't mistake what, in my head, I perceived I was going to find. Sure enough, it read much more like a thesis detailing the rationale and wisdom behind my disengaging and sequestering behaviors in the situation, versus an outreach of reconciliation. Yikes.
I believe Colossians 3:13 best lays out our charge and challenge in this arena of peace and reconciliation. It lays it out in accessible terms that we should allow to become almost a mantra. "Bear with one another." "Forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone." "Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
What does it mean to truly bear with one another? Unfortunately, it means willingly walking a path where we will sometimes be wronged along the way. We will be let down. We will be incredibly frustrated with the actions of others. To choose to 'bear' with these disappointments means that we will prioritize 'being in relationship' over 'being right.'
What about the statement on the action of forgiveness? It doesn't say "forgive when you are ready or when the other person deserves it." It says "forgive if you HAVE a grievance against someone." Are you able to enter the state of forgiveness even if a self-imposed element of eligibility has not yet been attained?
And finally, how do we 'forgive as the Lord forgave us?' Can we possibly imitate the standard of what our Father did for us this Easter weekend? We may not have the strength to do what only Christ could do. But what we DO have is a world full of family, neighbors, friends, enemies, and many others we don't know – all who share one thing in common – we all are a part of a broken world where we will experience... "betrayal, scorn, pain, and injustice." What has been modeled for us is to not let there be a disqualifying event for granting forgiveness unto one another.
One of the most important lessons that came from my fracture with my friend was the discovery post mortem that, while his primary emotion during the entire time of the split was "bewilderment," mine was "fury." The person who did not have peace was myself. No matter how many times in my mind I kept trying to assure myself that 'he must really be feeling torment right now for what he has done,' it was in actuality myself who suffered all along – daily in fact! The sense of peace that came on the restoration of this relationship was overwhelming for both of us, but it only happened once *I* took action. It was not about him and what he had done – it was about me and my posture. How preposterous! I had had the power all along to bring peace if I only had had the courage to humble my pride, and to forgive!
With the model of forgiveness and reconciliation set before us this Easter weekend by our Lord and Savior, are you willing to examine relationships in your life and be honest with yourself about where you have not forgiven others? Opponents who you might continue to hold a grudge against? Friends or family who have not lived up to your standards? Our Father has challenged us to release our grievances in an imitation of his model. We may never be able to control the pain and injustice in each of our personal worlds, but we just might be able to create a presence of peace – a presence that will serve both as a much needed reprieve for ourselves, and as a powerful witness of grace for others.
Help me to fully dwell in the riches of the forgiveness and reconciliation offered by You to us through Christ. Help it to be transformative to my heart, to empower me to be able to bear with others, and forgive in the same way that You forgave me. Convict me of the relationships in my life where I have been reticent to extend grace unto others - the very grace that was offered to myself. Help me to facilitate a presence of peace in my life by being humble and by forgiving others.
In the name of Christ,