This is the blog I promised on Sunday last.
Forgiveness is easy in practice but very difficult to do practically. So how do we start? In the last post I pointed out that in the parable of the unforgiving servant that the forgiving the servant did not do was of a much, much smaller order than what he had been forgiven. But before we ask about forgiveness we have to know what it is that needs forgiving.
The answer is sin: But what does sin mean?
One answer to that is that sin means a falling short. Imagine an archer that tries his very best to hit a target but he is not strong enough and the arrow does not have enough range. It falls short of the target. That is what sin is, a falling short.
“But Steve,” you may say, “If someone tries their best and fails there is nothing that needs forgiving.”
“Actually, no.” I’d reply, “As they fell short. But what it does show is that you have already started to forgive. It’s easy at this level.”
So this is my advice, start small, then build up.
Forgive the penitent.
The next stage is to forgive those who are sorry. If someone regrets an action sometimes there is nothing they can do about it. If they are sorry, forgive. What they have done cannot be undone. But there is a time to put away the hurt and move on. It will still hurt.
What if you don’t know?
What do you do when you have been hurt and you do not know if the person who has hurt you regrets their action? This is the tricky one, and it is one I have spent a long time getting my head and heart around. Every day for the last ten years I have picked up a stick to walk with. Every day for the last ten years I have woken with pain and gone to sleep with pain which varies from a dull ache to something that is intense enough for me to know nothing but the pain. How do I deal with the driver who ran into me when cycling home?
The simple answer is to forgive. But that does not make the foot joint any less arthritic. The pain is still there, having a statement from the courts that I was not in any way to blame does not help, it just focuses the blame on that driver. Forgiving did not come easy, it took years of gradual steps (some of them backwards) and a lot of anger before I was able to forgive.
The key is the Holy Spirit. Even at our most angry and resentful the Holy Spirit is still at work in those who love God. We know we are supposed to forgive, but we just don’t feel like it. Take ownership of your resentment, it is yours and it is not hurting the person it is aimed at, though it s hurting you, and through you your friends and family. Until you own the emotional hurt it is very hard to give it up.
Every now and again we all mess up. I am particularly good at it, Asperger’s makes me an expert at saying the inappropriate thing, or saying the right thing in a wrong way. It makes me poor at reading body language, I don’t mean to. But if you know me you will probably get hurt, it’s the price you pay for befriending an Aspie.
I have developed a good apologising technique, I have had to. One thing I have to avoid, and this goes against everything I feel, is to pretend it doesn’t matter. When people get hurt, even accidentally, it does matter. Apologise, see if there is anything you can do to make things better, then move on. You cannot make people forgive you, that is up to them.
But God does forgive. I stress this part of God’s love a lot in my blogs not because I am a good Christian who sets himself up as a great example, but because I am a very poor one, in constant need of God’s, and everyone else’s, forgiveness.
One f the hardest things was to forgive myself. I go to a great church, Holy Trinity, Huddersfield, and I am aware that when coming to terms with my injuries that I was a bit, well, challenging. But I am accepted despite this. God forgives me, my church forgives me, why do I have so much trouble forgiving myself.
It is probably because I fail to see myself as God sees me, made in his image and greatly loved.
But more about being made in God’s image in the next blog.