Monday, March 17, 2014

Forgiving the 491st Time

"... as we forgive our debtors..."
Matthew 6:12

I got angry with one of my family members the other day.  One of those sweet wonderful people that I love to have near me, and who can, for the most part, do no wrong.  Mostly.

The thing is, I felt my anger was justified, as much as anger can be.  The offending party had committed the crime numerous times over weeks or months, and I had responded each time by asking said party to cease and desist in the action.  Numerous times.  But always kindly and gently.

And then, a few days ago, whether it was because the weather turned hot, or because I'm not feeling well, or because I was hormonal, or because Mercury was in retrograde,* I raised my voice on the issue.

{ *Kidding.  I don't even know what that means, 
and whatever it means, I don't believe it.}

Well, the defendant reacted in a rather offended way.  The prevailing opinion was as if I was enormously overreacting to what was a fairly small crime.

Which maybe I was, because maybe it was.  But do the continual repetitions of a small infraction add up to one large wrongdoing?  Because if so, I was completely justified in my anger.  I felt that because I'd reacted too mildly in the past, the culprit hadn't taken me seriously, and felt free to repeat the misdeed.  But my being repeatedly mellow didn't make the misconduct okay.

I take a couple of lessons from this.  The first has to do with me being the "judge".  I think about Matthew 18, when Jesus said to forgive "seventy times seven".  Now, it doesn't mean that parents, or teachers or employers should never give consequences for wrong actions, but neither do I think it means that my irritation or anger should increase exponentially until I explode.  Forgiving means I should return to my "baseline," if you will, and that every time someone "sins against me" should feel like the first time.  Apparently I need to work on that.

But the other lesson for me has to do with me being the "sinner," and how many times I commit the same sin, and how long God has to wait for me to realize and apologize.  The fact is, that just because God takes His time to make His displeasure known on something, doesn't mean He's okay with it.  He didn't punish Mary Magdalene, or Solomon for having all those wives.  Or Lot's daughters.  (Genesis 19.  I'm not going to talk about it here.)  Or King Saul when he consulted a medium.  Or Rahab for prostitution.  The commandments are in the book, and ignorance is no excuse.

Sometimes He just let natural consequences take care of the punishment.  Other times the retribution was coming, but in His timing.  Still other times, as with Mary Magdalene, mercy reigned, and He just forgave. 

I am both in a position to forgive, and of needing forgiveness.  Which pretty much brings me back to the fact that I'm not sure my anger is ever justified.  Choose mercy.

~ "Neither do I condemn you;
      go and sin no more." ~
John 8:11

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