Sunday, November 21, 2010

on forgiveness and dogs...

Had a fight with a family member.
Friend insulted you.
Lover dumped you.
Someone abused you.
Or mugged you.

And so you feel like throwing a vase at the wall. Or beating up the wall. Or writing an angry song afterwhich you will slam your guitar on the wall. Then you could make a music video out of your life, to the tune of the latest emo hit sensation and be cool. Because pop culture has made angst and unforgiveness "cool" in a sense, hasn't it?

But then here comes the Gospel to ruin it. Jesus calls us to forgive.

Sissy Christian Forgiveness?
We tend to interpret the stuff Jesus talked about as cute little Christian teachings that are designed to make the world a better place. Cute little greeting card suggestions. Sigh. But if you look at the society of Jesus' day, the prevailing culture was this: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

So you can imagine the controversy of Jesus' statement. It wasn't some sissy little greeting card idea. It wasn't a wimpy reaction to conflict, by which one could divest of responsibility. It was a revolutionary ideal. It was a complete paradigm shift from the pervading culture.

Dogs on the Loose!
The Greek word for "forgive" means to "release" or "set free." I thought it was quite a beautiful idea. When I forgive someone, I let them loose. The image I had was of a professional dog-walker being pulled in every direction by seven foaming bulldogs. Forgiveness is letting each of those bulldogs free. Not that I think of people as dogs, but you get the point.

This means freedom for both me and them. Them because they are no longer my captive. In the case of people who have wronged me, they no longer "owe me." I set them free and no longer demand recompense or vindication. And then on the flipside, I release myself. I'm no longer dragged in every direction by those I wish to hold captive. Everybody gets free when forgiveness takes place. That explains the post-confessional lightness: it's freedom! Think about it.

You've probably been wronged. You're not unique. We all have, though to different degrees. And forgiveness is what it takes to be free. I'll admit that it's a challenge. One time, I realized I hadn't forgiven someone who had wronged me. When I saw my friends being nice to them, I would feel bad and wish I could tell them what a jerk the person was! It was tough to truly forgive. But forgiveness sets our transgressors free. And it sets us free.

Set them free. And set yourself free. Forgive.

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?" Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven." Matthew 18:21-22

1 comment:

russ said...

i forgive and i'm ready to forget now..