“But these cuts I have, they need love to help them heal.” — Elton John, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”

Matthew 7:1-6
Matthew 5:21-26
Ephesians 4:25-27
Luke 23:33-43

This is how I work: if someone even slights me, I put up a wall. It might be small, to resemble the offense, but it performs the task of separating us. Eventually some people hurt me even more, and I build the wall higher to ensure that they stay out. I just can’t let them in to do any damage.

It works like a credit card. I give people a certain line of credit. They, in turn, operate within their approved limit. As time and trust increase, their credit line grows. I give them more of me, of my time, resources and heart.

They cannot exceed their limit at any given time, though. If they do, they incur a penalty of my anger or frustration that needs immediate payment. Compounding interest on the outstanding debt sets in. Adding up fast, and in short time, the debt’s insurmountable. The relationship bankrupts because one party can’t pay the debt, and the other won’t forgive it.

“He has violated me too much for me to forgive.” “I just can’t give any more.” “We’re just too different.” “We’re not on good terms right now.”

The interest grew too high for someone to pay off. The relationship broke, and the credit was ruined.

How do we keep from losing credit in relationships? First, we could pay our debts immediately. We could admit wrongs. We could confront the painful and hard issues. We could seek forgiveness and give it quickly. Then we immediately re-engage the relationship and the person.

Another option is to work out the grievance over time. You know, a tense moment here, a cold glimpse there, a biting comment or two. Finally the issue could blow up, requiring a reconciliation. These are hard and painful, and generally leave a scar.

Or we could ignore the invisible elephant for a lifetime and live with the separation. The end of this road ends in hard hearts and bitter roots. The grapes on this vine are sour and distasteful.

When paying relational debt, we need precision and care. Dealing with a wrong or a hurt doesn’t justify reciprocated wounds. Let’s not create more debt. Were a surgeon to extract glass from your foot, he’d use a scalpel, not a saw. The same goes for dislodging the speck from a brother’s eye or the log in our own.

Jesus teaches us to forgive others. He was the one who could love a criminal dying at the hands of justice. He could pray for those who nailed him to a tree. While we clutch our list of hurts, he’s busy canceling ours against God, against him.

Forgiveness is not an issue of merit. But it is one of freedom. If you want liberty in your life, forgive. Forgive others and reconcile. Forgive yourself and walk free from the past. Understand that you’ve been forgiven.

And if this doesn’t work, just know that Jesus ties our forgiveness to our ability to forgive. There’s a great deal of liberty out there waiting to be given. Will we choose it?

What can’t you forgive?  Whom can’t you?  Why?
Is it worth a supreme effort?
Does forgiving mean forgetting? 


© 2006