Friday, March 9, 2012

Patience, Mercy, Forgiveness.3

"Likewise, the time came for a certain king to appraise his financial records. During this process, one of his servants was brought before him, who owed a staggering amount, ten thousand gold pieces!

Since it was impossible that the servant ever repay such a debt, the king resorted to the law, which decreed that the debtor and his family be sold into slavery, and their house and possessions be disposed of in a public auction.

Sorrowfully, the servant fell to his knees before the king, and cried: 
"My Lord and King, I beg you to have patience with me, and I will repay you all that I owe."

So moved was the king with compassion, that he forgave the debt, and let his servant go free.

On his way home, this same servant encountered a friend who owed him a few pennies. Instead of showing mercy, however, he seized the man by the throat, shouting: 

"Thief! Pay me back the coins that you borrowed from me."

His friend fell at his feet, and pleaded:
1936 Parker Brothers
"Please be patient! I swear that I will repay you every last cent."

But the servant wouldn't listen, even to his friend’s begging and tears, and had the poor man dragged off to prison until he could repay the debt according to the law.

By chance, some of the king's servants witnessed this outrageous behavior, and reported it back to the king.

Immediately, the king sent for his servant, and said: 
"Wicked servant. I forgave you an immense debt simply out of mercy. Couldn't you have shown similar compassion to your own friend who owed you such an insignificant sum?"

Having said this, the king handed the servant over to his prison guards, and commanded them to lock him away until all his debts had been paid. 

So will my heavenly Father judge you, if you refuse to forgive your own brothers and sisters from the depths of your hearts." 
-- Jesus

Her (former) best friend's ugly,vengeful rumor pales in comparison to the painful bitterness she feels toward the woman who ripped a hole in her heart the day she ended the life of the neighbor boy in a senseless accident.

"On the very anniversary of losing my sister in a freak accident", she reminded me.

 "Can indifference ever be forgiveness?" I ask, because I care very much for her; she is, after all, one of my favorites and I detect that already the hardness and harshness of life is taking its toll on her.

"I don't know what that means," is her honest reply, to which she adds, "but I can never forgive that woman...never. Why should I?"

"Maybe because you don't want to live the rest of your life in anger and bitterness," I suggest as I open the school bus door to drop her off. She shrugs her shoulders, but promises to think about it...

We don't have to walk this world very long till we are confronted with the difficult decision to forgive. I would venture to say it is the single most important issue we struggle with as human beings because it is the tie that binds:
  •  binding us to a life of bitterness or emotional indifference  
  • or binding us to the hearts of the forgiven and Forgiver in ways we cannot comprehend or experience until we walk through that door.

"...there are two sins, not of individual deed, but of spiritual condition, which cannot be forgiven; that is, as it seems to me, which cannot be excused, passed by, made little of by the tenderness even of God, inasmuch as they will allow no forgiveness to come into the soul, they will permit no good influence to go on working alongside of them; they shut God out altogether. Therefore the man guilty of these can never receive into himself the holy renewing saving influences of God's forgiveness. God is outside of him in every sense, save that which springs from his creating relation to him, by which, thanks be to God, he yet keeps a hold of him, although against the will of the man who will not be forgiven.

The one of these sins is against man; the other against God.

The first is unforgivingness to our neighbor; the shutting of him out from our mercies, from our love—so from the universe, as far as we are a portion of it—the murdering therefore of our neighbor. It may be an infinitely less evil to murder a man than to refuse to forgive him. The former may be the act of a moment of passion: the latter is the heart's choice.

It is spiritual murder, the worst, to hate, to brood over the feeling that excludes, that, in our little world, kills the image, the idea of the hated. We listen to the voice of our own hurt pride or hurt affection to the injury of the evil-doer. In as far as we can, we quench the relations of life between us; we close up the passages of possible return.

This is to shut out God, the Life, the One. For how are we to receive the Forgiving Presence while we shut out our brother from our portion of the universal forgiveness, the final restoration, thus refusing to let God be All in all? If God appeared to us, how could he say, “I forgive you,” while we remained unforgiving to our neighbor? Suppose it possible that he should say so, his forgiveness would be no good to us while we were uncured of our unforgivingness. It would not touch us. It would not come near us. Nay, it would hurt us, for we should think ourselves safe and well, while the horror of disease was eating the heart out of us.

Tenfold the forgiveness lies in the words, “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.” Those words are kindness indeed. God holds the unforgiving man with his hand, but turns his face away from him. If, in his desire to see the face of his Father, he turns his own towards his brother, then the face of God turns round and seeks his, for then the man may look upon God and not die.

With our forgiveness to our neighbor, in flows the Consciousness of God's forgiveness to us; or even with the
1936 Parker Brothers
effort, we become capable of believing that God can forgive us. No man who will not forgive his neighbor, can believe that God is willing, yea, wanting to forgive him, can believe that the dove of God's peace is hovering over a chaotic heart, fain to alight, but finding no rest for the sole of its foot.

For God to say to such a man, “I cannot forgive you,” is love as well as necessity. If God said, “I forgive you,” to a man who hated his brother, and if (as is impossible) that voice of forgiveness should reach the man, what would it mean to him? How would the man interpret it? Would it not mean to him, “You may go on hating. I do not mind it. You have had great provocation, and are justified in your hate”? No doubt God takes what wrong there is, and what provocation there is, into the account; but the more provocation, the more excuse that can be urged for the hate, the more reason, if possible, that the hater should be delivered from the hell of his hate, that God's child should be made the loving child that he meant him to be.

The man would think, not that God loved the sinner, but that he forgave the sin, which God never does. Every sin meets with its due fate—inexorable expulsion from the paradise of God's Humanity. He loves the sinner so much that he cannot forgive him in any other way than by banishing from his bosom the demon that possesses him, by lifting him out of that mire of his iniquity.

God is forgiving us every day—sending from between him and us our sins and their fogs and darkness. Witness the shining of his sun and the falling of his rain, the filling of their hearts with food and gladness, that he loves them that love him not. When some sin that we have committed has clouded all our horizon, and hidden him from our eyes, he, forgiving us, ere we are, and that we may be, forgiven, sweeps away a path for this his forgiveness to reach our hearts, that it may by causing our repentance destroy the wrong, and make us able even to forgive ourselves. For some are too proud to forgive themselves, till the forgiveness of God has had its way with them, has drowned their pride in the tears of repentance, and made their heart come again like the heart of a little child.

But, looking upon forgiveness, then, 
as the perfecting of a work ever going on, 
as the contact of God's heart and ours, 
in spite and in destruction of the intervening wrong, 
we may say that God's love 
is ever in front of his forgiveness. 

God's love is the prime mover, ever seeking to perfect his forgiveness, which latter needs the human condition for its consummation. The love is perfect, working out the forgiveness. God loves where he cannot yet forgive—where forgiveness in the full sense is as yet simply impossible, because no contact of hearts is possible, because that which lies between has not even begun to yield to the besom (broom) of his holy destruction.

Some things, then, between the Father and his children, as between a father and his child, may comparatively, and in a sense, be made light of—I do not mean made light of in themselves: away they must go— inasmuch as, evils or sins though they be, they yet leave room for the dwelling of God's Spirit in the heart, forgiving and cleansing away the evil.

When a man's evil is thus fading out of him, and he is growing better and better, that is the forgiveness coming into him more and more. Perfect in God's will, it is having its perfect work in the mind of the man. When the man hath, with his whole nature, cast away his sin, there is no room for forgiveness any more, for God dwells in him, and he in God.

With the voice of Nathan, “Thou art the man,” the forgiveness of God laid hold of David, the heart of the king was humbled to the dust; and when he thus awoke from the moral lethargy that had fallen upon him, he found that he was still with God. 'When I awake,” he said, “I am still with thee.'"

(adapted from George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermon, It will Not Be Forgiven)