Many of us love the dear old hymn “Amazing Grace“, written by John Newton, a man, at least indirectly, responsible for who knows what all sorts of atrocities as he dealt in the slave trade, but saved by the same amazing grace that we all need just as much as he did. So many other songs have also been written and composed along the theme of God’s amazing grace. If we dare to think of our worst moments, (and most of us have had a few), we are exceedingly glad for the grace that flows down from the cross and covers us. Those are moments that we would rather not be broadcast, despite that they may be forgiven history. We delight in a God who moves our confessed sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12) when our hearts are penitent. If there are some who can’t think of anything they’re ashamed of, then they likely deal with either forgetfulness or pride, but regardless, we were born with a need to be saved thanks to Adam and Eve. C.S. Lewis considered pride to be the the essential vice, the utmost evil. How can one admit his need for the grace of the cross when pride blinds him to it?
Pride also causes us to have blind spots that allow us to judge others sins and consequences by our own experiences, culture’s standards, or our governmental system of justice. Justice has it’s necessary and helpful purpose, of course, especially in regard to consequences and safety. Though we can and should find comfort and relief in necessary steps to stop an injustice, generally, our purpose is to humbly pray for heart changes and for what we can do in our society to make a difference. How often we involve ourselves in the news reports of someone’s sin with just a tad of satisfaction in the back of our minds that we would never do that. I remember a pastor once saying regarding the worst of offenders, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”
For most of us forgiveness is hardest when the infraction is personal. In a just over two minute video, Corrie ten Boom tells how we can actually let God do the hard work through us if we are just willing to take the next step (or, as she did, extend the hand). She said, “You see, you never so touch the ocean of God’s love as when you love your enemies.”
When we deal with forgiveness it helps to remember that we are only promised the amount of grace and forgiveness from God that we extend to others. One of the hardest areas of forgiveness is when time has gone by and the offense was never dealt with, or perhaps continues. (Outside of forgiveness, I am not referring to physically abusive situations here.) But in emotional mind games, subtle or outright meanness, bullying, betrayals, rejections, slights, “cold-shoulders”, favoritism, backstabbing, etc., James 5:8-9 gives encouragement. “You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near. Brothers do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged. Look, the judge stands at the door.” “Patience is the attitude that can endure and bear suffering without getting angry…Patience is the evidence of the love inside of us…You win by waiting and trusting in God….When you complain against others, you put yourself in a position to be judged.” (Lifeway Student Commentary, Fall 2013, Session 6)