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There's a scene in the 1988 movie BIG that best illustrates my struggle to understand what I'd always been taught about forgiveness. A young boy named Josh Baskin (played by Tom Hanks) awakes to discover he is trapped inside the body of a thirty-year-old man. He later acquires a job at McMillan Toys and finds himself in a meeting where a co-worker utilizes charts and graphs to communicate the value of a product. Sure of his sales delivery, the man smugly asks in closing, "Any questions?"
Josh uses his peripheral vision to scan the room for someone--anyone who appears to be as baffled as he is, but there are no visible signs of camaraderie. Still a child on the inside, he half-raises his hand, and in a sheepish tone, says, "I don't get it."
For many years I sought the wisdom of what "grown ups" had to say about the topic of forgiveness. I read their books. I prayed their prayers. I recited their words of affirmation, but like Josh, the child inside me didn't get it. Not once did I raise my hand and confess the struggle; I tried harder. My adult efforts to get forgiveness "right," muffled the sound of Christ calling to the confused kid in my heart. The one who like Josh Baskin, failed to grasp what I was taught even as I longed to understand.
I can't tell you how to forgive in a single-prayer-filled bound. All I have to offer is my witness--what happened when I became like a little child, half-raised my hand toward heaven, and confessed, "I don't get it. And I really don't get Mark 11: 25--26. It's a real heart crusher, Jesus."
"And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone,
forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses."
Why would Jesus tell the brokenhearted and exploited that if they do not forgive, God will not forgive them? I'll say out loud what a lot of folks ponder: What an insensitive thing to say to someone who is clearly suffering!
Bingo. Please, read the eleventh chapter of Mark in its entirety; Jesus was not addressing a battered women's shelter that day. He'd just come from the temple where he'd overturned the tables of money-changers, and the seats of those who sold doves. He was fed up with the hypocrisy of the scribes and chief priests, and with bull-whip in hand, expressed his Father's hot displeasure. Jesus was angry.
Within the context of pride and arrogance admonishing words are often necessary. Jesus sees the contents of my heart. When I'm hypocritical and judgmental, he turns the tables over in my heart, and I find out in a hurry, I'm not too "adult" to be disciplined. But when my heart is broken by the careless sins of another, He draws me with cords of loving-kindness.
It is not the nature of Christ to point a condemning finger at a little lamb caught in the thickets of an honest struggle to forgive. It's his nature to untangle these little ones and carry them home.
Often times, well-meaning clergy and lay ministers are quick to affirm the benefits of forgiveness but are remiss in recognizing the validation and comfort many need forgive as Christ commands--from the heart.
Mark 11:25--26 may not have been directly spoken to victims and secondary victims of abuse/betrayal that day, but the fact remains; the Christian imperative to forgive is directed to all believers. Today, I see this passage in a way that is relevant to the struggle without compromising its integrity.
"And whenever you stand praying,
if you have anything against anyone,
that your Father in heaven
may also forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:25).
Forgiveness is GREEK to me!
The Strong's Greek transliteration for stand is to stand firm; persevere.
Forgive (aphiemi) translates to: lay aside, leave, let go
af-ee'-ay-mee (phonetic spelling) derives from apo and hiemi. (to send; to send forth, in various applications (as follow): cry, forgive, forsake, lay aside, leave, let (alone, be, go, have), omit, put (send) away, remit, suffer, yield up.
It's origin is apo; a primary particle; "off," i.e. away (from something near), in various senses of place, time, or relation; lit. or fig.) In composition (as a prefix) it usually denotes separation, departure, cessation, completion or reversal, etc. (copyright 1995, 1996 by Thomas Nelson.)
As you can see, there's a bit more to forgiving one's enemy than mere words spoken from the lips with heart in protest. Jesus says we must forgive from our hearts. What I've come to realize in my faith journey is that when my heart is too broken to forgive, Jesus will wipe my tear-stained cheeks, offer his sleeve in place of a tissue, and invite me into the heart of the matter.
Will I follow?
The Heart of Mark 11: 25--26
1) When I pray fervently in daily distress, I am standing in prayer.
2) When I tell God what I hold against the person who harmed me, I am "sending, remitting, yielding up"--to Him, my grievances.
3) When I am willing to "lay aside" the belief that it is immoral to feel intense emotion when I have suffered harm, I will "cry." I will "suffer." I will "yield up" to God exactly what I think and feel about the harm done to me. I am free to confess my destructive re-actions under no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
4) I allow myself to experience the daily conversion of heart.
5) When it's time. He prompts me to forgive from my heart. And it is an honest gift, not given begrudgingly, but with the love Jesus first gave to me.
This is the miracle of authentic forgiveness. This is my prayer for you.
Peace and good to you,
Published on Thursday, May 20, 2021 @ 11:34 AM CDT