Saturday, August 20, 2005

Still Wrestling -- but closer to home

I ran into Elder Headache today. I was going into the pancake house and he was just leaving.

Spoiled my whole breakfast.

Elder Headache, as chair person of the budget committee, had pushed an idea he had for the new budget -- a 1% pay raise for the young Associate Pastor. "He's fresh out of seminary, we gave him a job -- what's he going to do? Jump ship? He'll take it and he should be glad for it."

"He has done a good job. Everyone else is getting at least a 5% increase. He and his wife deserve better."

"His wife is just a Jap."

Gee -- World War II has been over for decades. It's time for him to get over it.
I see Elder Headache, and I know that he has carefully nurtured and cared for his hatred. He has fed his bitterness at the enemy he fought 60 years ago in a noble war. His anger has roots that run deep into his soul.

It made my blood boil.

I was still mad at lunchtime.

That's when it occurred to me -- Elder Headache's plan for the 1% insult happened in 1999.

Just seeing the elder resurrected my six-year old anger.

There is an interesting verse in Matthew's Gospel. In chapter 18, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven."

Every sermon I have ever heard on this text talks about how we have to patiently forgive people who do us wrongly -- over and over, no matter how many times they do bad things to us.
That's not what this text says to me.

For me, this text tells me that when someone does something that calls for forgiveness -- I need to forgive.

Then the next day when I remember the event, even though the person has not done anything NEW -- I need to forgive.

And 6 years later when I run into him at the Pancake House and my blood boils as I remember his comments -- I need to forgive.

Sometimes forgiveness comes slowly. It has to be nurtured and cared for. It has to be fed. It needs time for its roots to deepen into the soil of our soul. You feed this forgiveness not once, not seven times, but so often you lose count.


Blogger Joe said...

Perhaps you're on to something. I always hear the same thing: this is about forgiving for 70 (ad infinitum) different sins in a day, but could anyone actually do that? Can I really be wronged and move on that many times? On the other hand, I've heard several people - the one's really struggling with forgiveness - talk about it as a process. But they usually have no text to support that idea. Perhaps they know instinctively (or by the Spirit's insight) the correct interpretation, whether or not they've ever been taught it. Thanks. I'll be thinking about this.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Oops - I deleted my last comment to add a longer one. :-)

I agree - I think forgiveness is a daily decision - a daily challenge.

It's like a bell tower. When you forgive someone, you take your hand off the cord - you stop ringing the bell. But the bell keeps ringing. What's going on?

It takes time after you forgive. If you stay up in the tower and keep pulling the cord every once in a while, it just makes matters worse.

And even if you let go, and leave the tower, it still takes time for the bell to stop ringing.

Every day you must decide that your decision to forgive still stands. It's hard, but I guess that's why we need Him every day...

10:32 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

I just discovered your blog and this is the second entry I have read. Good for you! Wrestling with forgiveness is a difficult thing. But holding onto it isn't doing you any good, either. It doesn't solve any problems. It wears at your health and your strength. What I told my son recently when he was hurt and angry was to begin by praying for the one who hurt him. It is just a start. Sometimes, if I can find the why of their behavior, I can find my love for them.


11:47 PM  
Blogger Angelique said...

I am all for forgiving those who make mistakes but people who actively making the decision to act like an ass or a bigot deserve neither your time nor forgiveness. I am just sorry that he is representing a faith and is basically saying it's okay to like one person and not another based on his prejudices. I am glad that you, Apostle John, struggle with the idea of forgiveness and that makes you more believable and more human as a man of faith because you do practice what you preach. Preach on, brother!

12:04 AM  
Blogger jbb said...

that was an awesome interpritation ive never heard. ill be sure to share it with my friends. i just wanna thank you for this awesome blog. it must have been god who led me to it cause i want through a lot of garbage ones to randomly find this one.

4:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think i'm getting addicted to your blog! Thats some deep stuff there. Forgiving someone that annoying is like that yucky vegetable you know is good for you but you just dont want to have to eat!

7:47 AM  
Blogger Maryellen said...

interesting take on forgiveness, for years, everytime I heard a sermon on forgiveness I would think of my father's third wife, who was only a year and a half older than me and who really messed me up bad. and I would say, LORD, I already forgave her, didn't I. I guess he was reminding me or urging me to forgive her again, and again, and again. and now, with the new situation i am in, anytime anyone says, does, or prints something that reopens the wounds, i have to forgive again...
ah the mystery of forgiveness, I once witnessed this, as an onlooker, and it impressed me greatly. A young man of God confessed to a group of his peers, young college students that he had been ministering with, that he had been hiding a terrible sin, and that in a moment of weakness he acted on that sin. Now his hidden sin had a victim, and he was facing prison and public chastisement. His confession was tearful and sincere.
His friends prayed scripture over him, cried with him, and promised to stand by him. One young woman came up to him and asked him to sit down and take off his shoes. She then anointed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. She said that she had been abused as a child and had never told anyone. She said that as an abused child she forgave him and that finally she could also forgive the man who had done this to her. Ah, the mystery of forgiveness...

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Rev Bill said...

Once again, you have hit the nail on the head. It is much easier for me to forgive or pray for "Osama" that it is to pray for "Elder Headache" (which I have one, also) or anyone who seems to want to make my life miserable. Of course, I have to remind myself that I am letting them do that -- I dont have to react like I do -- but most of the time I still do and have to pray for forgivness for myself -- and for the strength to forgive them!

8:21 PM  
Blogger ~**Dawn**~ said...

i never heard it presented quite that way before. i felt like i had an "a-ha..." moment though the second i read that. makes perfect sense to me.

10:31 PM  

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