One of the toughest and easiest lessons to teach and learn is forgiveness.
I look at children, my own especially, and I see such capacity to offer the ‘I’m sorry’. Even in the midst of the embarrassment of having done something wrong, and much worse, being caught in it, children know that the easing of the situation comes from the short phrase. It makes all things better.
That’s the easy part.
The difficult part is the other side of forgiveness. When we are asked to receive the I’m sorry rather than give it. I know this seems counter intuitive. It would make sense that being in the wrong would be harder than being right.
But sometimes being right is so much harder when we’re called to be part of a culture that forgives. When Jesus tells us to forgive we know that an apology goes a long way to righting a situation where we’ve wronged someone. And there is a sense of emotional release, a ripping of the spiritual bandaid that happens when we acknowledge and say the words of repentance.
It’s the 70×7 that I struggle with.
And I see my apparently mature spiritual self rebel at the injustice of having to forgive. Like my kids say, ‘It’s not fair! You don’t understand and if you did you would know that this just doesn’t cut it!”.
Because if forgiveness was just, then it would be harder to receive forgiveness.
I’m sorry wouldn’t cut it.
It’s the feeling we have that the anger of hurt outweighs the heaviness of guilt on the scales of justice.
And I’m sorry doesn’t seem to have the human capacity to balance it out.
I’ve known for a long time that God’s idea of justice and mine don’t align. That I’m so glad to be able to receive his grace and forgiveness but hav such trouble when he asks me to be like him.
Because then it’s not fair.
It’s an eternal struggle, seeing justice and mercy meted out where I don’t see a resolution. Where it doesn’t seem fair.
I was reading in Deuteronomy 15 (if you ever want to ponder justice and grace, try reading through that lens) and came across the year of cancelled debts. It’s the idea, the requirement that God gave the Israelites to forgive debts of others every 7years. Wiped away. Clean and forgotten.
This is a financial and social form of justice but in this passage God nudged me.
What about the forgiveness part?
Some of our spiritual and emotional debts are excruciating to forgive. There may be no justice, no repentance, no face or a too familiar face to the deep wounds that plague us.
There are debts that feel like they can never be repaid or forgiven.
I struggle with what to write next. There are platitudes about forgiveness that undermine the need for security and don’t acknowledge the depth of brokenness. There are words of should that we say in order to make another person better or, at least, their problem go away.
When 70×7 doesn’t even feel like the tip of the iceberg and it’s said with the tone of a cocked head and wagging finger.
And yet, the truth of God’s word that says forgiveness is necessary and obedient and healing.
And there is my tension.
The acknowledgement that God’s abilities are not mine, but are available to me.
A decision to pursue his idea of justice even when I don’t understand it or feel that it’s sufficient.
And the need to ask for the ability and strength to forgive soul debts.
Forgiveness is not easy and forgiveness without visible justice is sometimes only possible through the strength of the Spirit.
But it is asked of us.
Asked of us in our wondedness and outside of our understanding and willingness.
But we are not asked by someone who just wants it over with and swept under the rug.
It is asked of us by the One who sees past the past and into the future healing and justice in ways we don’t see.
We are not asked to forgive as a result of our punishment. We are asked to forgive as a testament to grace freely given.
So maybe the tension is a reminder. A sacramental reminder of love poured out for us. A baptism into our slow rising toward greater healing and understanding of the holy mingling of justice and grace.
70×7 steps toward Him who receives us without blemish and with loving arms, wounded and broken, healing in his presence.