Matthew 18:21-22 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Once upon a time, I used to get ticked off when someone stole from me, accused me of something I didn’t do, lied about me, lied to me, broke a promise to me… etc. etc.
Then… *sigh*… God would prompt, and I would have to “forgive” them.
That is, I’d have to refrain from hitting them, cussing them out, telling everyone I knew what a worthless piece of trash they were… etc., etc.
Then… *sigh*… God prompted further, saying that wasn’t enough. I was constraining my “reaction” to their offense, but I still held that “score point” in my heart. I knew, deep in my heart, that they “owed me”! And one day, whether here or in the hereafter, I expected them or God to “make good” on the I.O.U.
That is, I had to “forgive them from my HEART”… I had to stop clinging to that precious I.O.U. I had to take my spirit strong box of stored up I.O.U’s and chits that I had so carefully preserved across the years, and burn the lot of them. That strong box and its contents were “binding” my own offenses in the memory of Our Father.
Well… drat! I really LIKED my strong box and my collection. I’d worked really hard across the years to make sure my “intake” was vastly greater on those I.O.U’s than my “output”. And now… I had to burn them! Drat!
Then… *sigh*… God prompted further, saying that wasn’t enough. I had to throw away the strong box, and “learn to burn” the chit, the I.O.U., the very next moment after it was written. I could “feel” the offense, and “flare” with my reaction of indignation… but then I had (as instantly as possible)… to release it, and let the moment float off into the Cosmos, restoring the relationship as quickly and totally as possible. Drat!
So, across the years, my “adrenalin fix” reduced. My righteous indignation quotient lessened, and somehow… right about here…. Jesus was finally able to make Himself “utterly heard” in my heart with “Love others as I love… and, by the way, what did *I* forgive… how much, how many, how completely?” Drat!
And then one day, unexpectedly, I awoke in the early morning hours inside the body of Jesus as He hung on the cross, just minutes from expiration. As I struggled to breathe, I felt Him… from the inside. Alongside the (fairly) obvious discomfort, the struggle just to take in air, breath by shuddering breath, I remember looking up… looking out… at the crowd… jeering, mocking, spitting, waving fists and sandals, some (very few) weeping… and I remember suddenly feeling a rush of love, of concern, of protection FOR them… as a parent feels for their baby child. I remember the words parting His cracked lips… “Father, forgive them! They don’t know… they don’t know what they do.” And then, a brief time later, “It is finished!” And there was no more struggling for breath.
There are no words, Gentle Reader… no words at all for the condition in which I returned to my own easy breathing, my own ability to sit upright and see my own room, that morning. But beyond all that…
God Broke My Abacus!
Finally, totally and completely, beyond all words and meaning, my heart was now permanently emblazoned with…
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-7]
From that morning to this, um… I seldom even notice “offense”, and it’s almost a joke with those among whom I walk that to “offend” me you really have to be trying. Further… I am SO TOTALLY aware, that not only am I NOT the Holy Spirit (so far above my pay grade…), I am not and cannot play the role of anyone else’s conscience… (I would so totally mess up the job)… that I “discuss the sins of other specific people” only with THAT person, and only when THEY ask me something about “life, the universe, and everything”.
“Why?” you may ask… “How?”… “What in the world entices anyone to discuss their sin or discomforts of conscience with you?”
It’s a secret. A secret Jesus taught me. You just “love them as if they weren’t sinning”. You love that person as if they were sacred, special, and beloved. You love them as if you had respect and regard FOR them. In fact, you treat them as “holy”, as if they were the very person Jesus came for… lived for… died for… rose for…
Love people as if they COULD NOT offend you, because their sins were forgiven by the power of Jesus’ words to the Father AT the Cross…
Do that, and you know what happens?
You don’t have to keep counting anymore. You don’t have to count up to 490… anticipating that, “By gum, when they get to 491.. ‘WHAM!’ are they gonna get it!”
You don’t have to keep score, collect chits, box up treasures that bind and chain you…
You set them free. You set the Holy Spirit free. You don’t have to “forgive” nearly so often, because you don’t get wounded and hurt in the first place.
Oh… and you set yourself free to be forgiven by Our Father as well!
Yup, I’ve never missed my Abacus!
Grace to you!
The Little Monk