I remember a time in my life when I couldn’t remember any serious sins that I had committed. I would literally sit down and try to think of something. It’s amusing to look back on those days, because now I can see so many things over the years that I wish I could take back; things that I have said or done that have torn friendships apart, ways that I have broken hearts, and situations where I definitely could have handled things much better.
It’s easy to recognize the sins that other people commit against us. There are some significant ones in my past. Many times those sins committed against me have in turn caused me to commit sins toward the first party. Maybe I handled the situation the best way that I knew how, and perhaps so did they, but the truth that lies beneath it all is that we all have the potential to seriously mess things up. We don’t always do the right thing, and no matter how much knowledge we might have of right and wrong, we still can and do make serious errors in judgment.
I look back over some of the things that I have done and think, “Wow, I didn’t even know I was capable of doing something like that.” How do I keep from making those mistakes again? It seems to me that often the harder I try to avoid these things, the more frequently I do them. Suddenly I realize that I need forgiveness just as much as everyone else I have struggled to forgive in my life.
Thinking back over my past, especially in college, I hope that no one will hold the things I did and said against me. I desperately hope that doesn’t define who I am. I did the best that I could, but I had some stumbles along the way. Honestly, I think this about every day. “I hope that people don’t believe that yesterday was everything that I am.” I know more today than I did yesterday, and I hope that I am growing. I guess it is all a journey.
Jesus hit the nail on the head when He told us to forgive each other without keeping score. If we kept track of every blunder, then surely each one of us would be out of chances before long. There is not a person in the world who has lived a life without sin, and the one who thinks he has is blind. Best efforts and intentions cannot keep a life pure. It is only through living life with Christ that we can grow through each experience as we learn to not only acquire His wisdom for every situation, but also to administer mercy to others as well as ourselves.
I need to learn to suspend judgment on others and realize that they are walking a journey too. They too know more today than they did yesterday. Some people allow themselves to get stuck in cycles that leave them stuck in a perpetual breakdown. In these relationships, I can either be a co-offender or an extender of grace.
One thing that I have had to learn is that forgiveness is not weak. I may forgive someone of something, but because of the damaging nature of the cycle they are stuck in, I cannot allow them into my life, at least not in the capacity they used to be. Forgiving does not mean forgetting; rather it means that we do not allow someone else’s actions to enslave us. Trust is earned, and for good reason: some people do not deserve our trust. Through forgiveness, we do not hold an action against someone. We choose not to keep score. It is the first step in the process toward reconciliation, but it is not the entire process.
On the same note, grace is not weak. Grace extends mercy that we do not deserve, and we all need yet do not deserve grace. I must learn to extend grace to those around me. True grace, however, is not a doormat. Grace that is healthy encourages others to become healthy as well. It involves boundaries and consequences. It is sometimes tough love that must say no. Grace holds true to a standard that is unshakable both for the grace giver and the grace receiver. Every relationship, in order to be healthy, must have grace. Sometimes grace is the hardest thing to give…and receive.
God offers us forgiveness and grace. When we come to Him, He does not hold the past against us, but He also knows that we can be so much more. God understands boundaries, and there is an unshakable standard that holds the relationship together. He does not simply expect us to hold true to that standard; He has proven that He is true to that standard as well. Grace as it is meant to be is transforming. It is difficult. However, for things to be right, it is necessary.
My God has forgiven me, and I am living in His grace. This is a journey that I will be traveling my entire life. Every day I am growing. Every day I look a little more like Him. I pray that as I have received forgiveness and grace, I can extend it to those around me. I pray that others might extend it toward me as well. This is what it means to live in community. It is not easy; in fact, it is much more difficult to live this way than to live in endless cycles of dysfunction and brokenness. However, there is fulfillment and joy in living life in the Spirit. May more people come to know this truth.