If you were to come across an individual bashing your car with a baseball bat. What would you do?
You would probably call the police!
What if, when the police officer arrives, the offender apologizes to the officer, and the patrolman looks at you and says: “He’s sorry. Why don’t you just let it go?”
What?! You want that person to PAY, right? You don’t want to let him off.
But what about forgiveness?
Why is it difficult to forgive in this situation? Because we want justice. Where do we get that sense of justice? Well, from the ultimate Judge–God. Our desire for justice is reflective of God’s justice.
Someone has to pay for the offense: it’s either the offender or you. We all know, deep down, that someone has to pay. And we want the person who did the offense to pay. The reason why we don’t want to forgive is because we don’t want to pay for the offense. In terms of the Gospel, we don’t want to offer grace. Why? Because we think it wouldn’t be loving to the offender to let him off. Letting him go doesn’t help him, we think; nor the community he’s a part of.
We want the offender to pay.
That sounds an awful lot like Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. The one servant was forgiven much by the master, but then when one of his servants owed him a little, the one who was forgiven a huge debt threw the other servant into jail. When it was discovered what the first servant had done, the master “handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed” (18:34 NIV). Funny, how can you pay something back when you’re in jail?
Anyway, forgiveness costs someone something. In Jesus’ story, it cost the master a lot to forgive the huge debt of the first servant. The most gracious thing the first servant could have done was forgive one of his servants who owed him a little. After all, hadn’t the first servant just got radically saved by the master?
We often forget, at least I do, that I have been forgiven a huge debt, and the most gracious thing I could do to those who…
- offend me,
- hurt me,
- take advantage of me,
- get in my way
…is forgive them.
Offer them grace. Take the cost upon myself, just like the master did in Jesus’ story, and just like Jesus did on the cross.
Forgiveness always comes with a cost. Are we willing to pay it?