By: Matt Boness
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
Forgiveness is hard. Like real, deep, meaningful forgiveness.
When I was in high school, my family and I went a cruise with a bunch of friends that my brother and I had. We were only a year different in school, so a lot of friends were mutual. It was a lazy afternoon on a sea day (a day where you don’t stop in a port) and close to dinner time. My brother and a couple friends were watching TV in their cabin and at least one guy was taking a nap. As most 16 year old boys do, I went in to instigate and play jokes. The guy who was napping apparently didn’t want to be bothered from his nap. He jumped up and ran me out of the room, but when I turned around to go back in and opened the door slightly, he sucker punched me in the nose through the crack in the door. There was a little blood, but mostly shock and hurt feelings.
The reaction of violence as a result of a joke never seemed even to me. Jokes can and should be saved for appropriate times and one person’s joke can be taken in offense to someone else, admittedly, but I knew these guys and joking was part of our communication style. I never expected to be sucker punched for my actions.
It was the first time and only time I’ve been punched in the face. I’m not sure I have forgiven him for that.
This guy and I don’t talk anymore. I definitely harbored bitterness, but mostly life took us in different directions and our paths don’t cross anymore. Part of me thinks forgiveness at this point is worthless, no rebuilding of burnt bridges, no reconciliation of a relationship that doesn’t even exist, pointless and a waste of time.
But God doesn’t think so.
In fact, God requires it of us.
We think that forgiving someone else for a wrongdoing against us is more for them than for ourselves. Most of the time we don’t want to give that person a “get out of jail free” card for hurting us emotionally or physically. How dare they expect us to forgive them for what they did! They need to apologize to me! Bring out the pitchforks!!
And yet it’s me sitting here writing about a 15 second incident that happened 17 years ago, unresolved in my own mind. Forgiveness of others is for us; for our good.
When God sent Jesus to die on the cross, he gave us forgiveness for everything we have done wrong and will do wrong in our lives. He gave us the ultimate “get out of jail free card.” Far be it from me to tell God that I can’t forgive someone for something so trivial when he forgave me of everything I have ever done wrong.
The challenge to myself and to you is to forgive. Not in a superficial, glossed over way, but in a true, deep and meaningful way so that we can truly feel free to live and feel our own forgiveness in Christ.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”” – Matthew 18:21-22