The comment came loud and clear. “He made faces at me! He’s not sorry; he meant to hurt me. It wasn’t an accident at all!” The other child retorted, “I did not! Anyway, he said that my hair looks funny!” Petty, annoying and unkind comments flowed back and forth, and it seemed the two children just couldn’t get along with one another. And so, the words echo on…
As children of God we are not free from problems and difficulties. As saint and sinner, we struggle with our imperfect lives. We fall into the trap of arguing our case and defending it to the end, even if it means writing someone off because we can’t agree with him or her. We niggle others and taunt them with comments designed to get a rise out of them. At times we suffer from guilt over the words which flow so easily from our mouths – ‘shouldn’t have said that, but then neither should they, so really it’s not my fault’. Anger grows – criticism becomes the order of the day and a cancerous festering has set in distracting us from God’s purpose in our lives. Suddenly, there are all sorts of troubles with our personal relationships.
We don’t need to carry this burden and live miserable, smudged lives! Jesus’ work is complete; we are forgiven, and we are set free from the chains of sin. It is necessary, however, that we the forgivEN people also become the forgivING people. No matter how determined we are to walk with God, that relationship can’t stand if we cling to an unforgiving attitude toward other people. While we may hurt other people, the sinister presence of an unforgiving attitude in us is far more destructive than what they could have done to us. This sad situation is seen in the ongoing behaviour of the children in our example above.
If we are tempted to consider others as unworthy of our forgiveness, then we need to consider how undeserving we are of God’s forgiveness of the rebellion we all too often show to Him. Reflecting on God’s love for each of us, the not-so-good events in our lives ought to become opportunities to show our Father’s love for one another and to group together around His purposes once more.
In today’s world it is easy and very natural for parents to take sides with their children rather than to teach them how to forgive, but only the last choice brings healing to individuals and to friendships.
Heavenly Father, your Son did no wrong, yet He suffered to forgive all our sin. Help us to be forgiving people who bring healing to all our relationships. Help us to teach our children the power of forgiveness too. Amen.
Neil P. Schiller