Summary: Unforgiveness is a wrecking ball to the house of God. When we practice it, we are like the unmerciful servant who lives by the principle of “You owe, I’ll make you pay.” But the life of Christ operates by the principle of “You owe, I’ll pay.” He embraces the pain and reacts in ways that benefit us.
In the past, I’ve talked about how the building of mature authentic Kingdom community church life is the highest attainment a Christian can obtain in this life (because it’s God’s ultimate purpose).
It begs to be noted then, that the worst damage a Christian can do is tearing it apart (because it’s the enemy’s ultimate purpose).
Now you may be thinking that sin is what tears it apart; and you’d be right in general. But there’s something even more specific in the realm of sin that can be a wrecking ball.
Jesus Reverses The Equation
In his book Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them, John Ortberg takes us back to a character from the very beginning of humanity in the book of Genesis – Lamech (Noah’s father). Ortberg points out…
Lamech takes the concept of unforgiveness to the ultimate extreme. He kills a man for wounding him; he says he will seek revenge seventy-seven times over against anyone who hurts him. This is the Law of Lamech: If anyone inflicts pain on me, I must make them pay.
But remember how Jesus reverses Lamech’s little equation when he tells Peter that he must forgive seventy-seven times. Of course, neither of them are truly talking about counting the number of times you get vengeance on or forgive someone, but about the condition of the heart/mind.
The King’s Principle
In this exchange is when Jesus tells Peter the parable of the unmerciful servant. He tells the story of a king who cancelled the debt of a servant because he couldn’t pay, and the servant had the audacity to go to someone else that owed him a debt and demand to be paid. When the debtor couldn’t, the unmerciful servant had him thrown in prison.
The king operated by the principle of “You owe, I’ll pay,” while the servant operated by the principle of “You owe, I’ll make you pay.”
This is why the cross is at the heart of Christianity; and it cultivates the soil of church life. It embodies this principle of “you owe, I’ll pay.” Given our human condition, it’s the mortar necessary to hold together the living stones of God’s house (us) from falling apart.
Embrace the Pain
But don’t misunderstand what forgiveness is. It’s not pretending like nothing happened or tolerating the behavior to repeatedly continue. It means you understand the fallen-ness of the person you’re dealing with because you understand your own fallen-ness and why God had to forgive you too. In turn, you treat the other person with love and respect for who they are at the present moment.
The King doesn’t treat you like nothing ever happened. This is why choices have consequences. But He still loves and respects you as His creation just the same no matter what.
It’s also not forgetting about what happened. Another person’s behavior signals where they’re at in their maturity. Given that information, it’s appropriate to make adjustments or set boundaries in your relationship to make sure it’s set up for success; ultimately contributing to the building of one another up. This doesn’t mean your relationship will be exactly the same. In fact, it’s likely that it won’t be. You may keep a safer distance, or it you may be drawn closer together from a bond strengthened by reconciliation.
Ultimately, forgiveness is embracing the pain inflicted by someone else and reacting in ways that benefit them.
As we allow the divine life of God inside of us to renew our minds and our habits, we’ll find the Godly instinct of forgiveness will be our default reaction when we’re sinned against. It’s this instinct that will protect the house of God (us) from falling to pieces when the inevitable storms of human relationships come upon it.
The rest of the posts in the Nobody’s Normal series are here.