It’s been raining in Joplin for the last two weeks and it’s starting to feel like Seattle. Granted, I haven’t been to Seattle, but I hear it rains there a lot. God said he would never flood the earth again and he put a rainbow in the sky as a promise, but he never said he wouldn’t flood an entire town again. So I’m building my ark as we speak and the only people I’m allowing on are pugs and chimpanzees. Deal with it.
Granted, Seattle has beautiful mountain ranges, good coffee, and Powell’s City of Books, but I don’t think I’ll move there if this what it’s like most days out of the year. I imagine it’s because I probably have that seasonal depression thing. When it’s sunny outside, I’m sunny on the inside. When it’s cloudy skies and rainy weather, I’m as useful as a slug.
But here’s one thing the rainy weather is forcing me to do: stay inside. And I’m the type of person when I stay inside, I start thinking. And when I start thinking, I write.
So here’s what I’m thinking about today:
“but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15)
This is one of those hard sayings from Jesus that I don’t like to hear. Honestly, I’d rather pass over that part of Scripture and pretend it doesn’t exist. Nonetheless, the Lord knows I need to hear it.
The first thing that comes to mind when I read it is the word “trespasses”. I don’t know about you, but when I hear that word I think about all the times as a kid growing up that my friends and I would see a sign on someone’s property, which said in big, red, and bold letters: NO TRESPASSING. Naturally that was our invitation to adventure, and the next thing we know, we’re in our neighbor’s yard in an old-fashioned Mexican standoff with their large, slobbery dog. But it’s what we wanted. We were the Sandlot generation and we all just wanted to be Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez.
I think Jesus calls them trespasses because that’s what sin is. When we trespass against someone, we’ve disobeyed God’s NO TRESPASSING sign and foolishly marched onto the property of someone else’s soul. We stomp our feet on someone’s emotions and trample around on their hearts, leaving boot-sized scars in our wake.
But someone has done the same to us and we remember those scars all too well. Not to mention, some of our guard dogs were chihuahuas, which didn’t make it any easier.
Here’s the really hard thing: Jesus calls me to forgive my trespassers or else the Father won’t forgive me. Now I’m not a Bible scholar, but that seems pretty straightforward to me. If I don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive me. How is this possible?
Some of us have had terrible sins committed against us. Some of our scars are still fresh wounds. Deep, painful wounds like sexual abuse, bullying, murder of a family member, etc. Why can’t God just forgive us first and then let us worry about forgiving others later?
I think part of the reason Jesus says this is because we cannot receive forgiveness in full as long as we still carry resentment in our hearts.
To put it simply, it’s because resentment and vengeance stand directly counter to the gospel. God goes to the cross to forgive us our sins and wipes away our eternal indebtedness to Him, yet we still hold others in our debt? I’ve been naive enough to actually believe that.
We have yet to fully understand the gravity of God’s love and it’s implications for our lives.
I don’t want to undermine the weight of our scars. Some of the sins committed against us were plain ugly and we didn’t deserve them. But in truth, nothing that has been done to us is as severe as the sins we have committed against our infinitely holy and perfect Creator. If He can forgive us for our atrocities, we can forgive others of theirs.
I know. I really wish Jesus didn’t say this either. But I also know Jesus loves us and want what’s best for us. If we can trust Him, we can find the willingness to change.
“We don’t want to grow. It hurts. And yet we do, bravely and scared, bit by bit. We tell it–it hangs in the air with its amazingness–we begin to cooperate with kindness, and we remember the good we’ve seen in our own lives. We soften ever so slightly, with one to two percent willingness, and I’ll be damned if that isn’t enough.” – Anne Lamott
As Lamott reminds us, it’s going to take a little bit of spiritual WD-40 and a whole lot of help from the Holy Spirit to soften these hard, calloused hearts of ours, but what’s waiting for us on the other side of forgiveness is the peace we so desperately desire, along with the healing our soul craves.
To conclude, it’s still raining outside, I’m still building my ark, and I haven’t forgot about the pugs and chimpanzees. But now that I think about it, I think I’ll go ahead and leave the door open for anyone to come on in. It’s less lonely that way.
Featured image: Jarrell Jackson
Check out his stuff at vsco.co/actionjackson9