Just before heading out the door this morning, I remembered that I needed to help the 6-year-old clean up her pony tail. Comb in hand, I hurriedly tried to remove the elastic band already in her hair, accidentally pulling on her hair a little too hard. As she winced and vocalized the pain I had caused, I immediately expressed my apology and remorse for causing her discomfort. I then asked her, "Do you forgive me?" She answered without pause, "Not yet."
A few minutes into our car ride that followed the incident, I asked her again..."Do you forgive me?" Again, the response was "Not yet. But I will before we get to Grandpa's house." And as soon as we turned the corner, with their house in sight, she shouted out from the backseat "All right, Mom, I forgive you."
I took the opportunity to explain to her that when we do something wrong, God forgives us the instant that we say we are sorry. She acknowledged my lesson and went off on her merry way.
But my mind remained on our topic.
Our sins are way more unsavory to a Holy God than they would be to any person. Yet, the other sinner that you may have wronged will be much more indignant, self-righteous and slow to forgive than the Heavenly Father...as though they have never made a poor decision or reacted emotionally or sought forgiveness for their own actions. And I can say all this as the person who has struggled to forgive...as the person who voiced forgiveness but internalized anything but forgiveness...as the person who has sought forgiveness sincerely...and insincerely, rationalizing my own actions...and as the person who has forgiven, even when no forgiveness was sought.
Forgiveness is taught throughout the Bible. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son? Check it out in Luke 15. In his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:32), Paul instructs "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." In his letter to the people of Colossus (Colossians 3:13), Paul teaches "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." In what is commonly called The Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches us to ask God to forgive us as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Evaluating your ability to forgive, would you want that same level of forgiveness from God?
Forgiveness is not easy whether an apology is sincere, insincere or even provided. But we are to do it anyway. And when you really forgive...when you hand it off to God...you will be blessed with peace...a peace knowing that you have vacated the poison from your mind and heart that comes only from anger and indignation, created by a wrong and the process of dwelling on that wrong...and a peace from knowing that you are doing as God has instructed us to do...and as He has done for you.