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Forgiveness is Too Hard

Sep 29, 2017

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In the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman, the lead character, Zack Mayo  is in Navy Officer Candidate School.  His drill instructor is dead set on washing Mayo out.  During one famous scene, the drill instructor is making Mayo do pushups in puddles, spraying him in the face with water while he does sit-ups, and generally trying to break his spirit so that he voluntarily dropped from the program.  Finally, as drill instructor yells "why don't you just quit?" Mayo cries out - "I got no place else to go!"

For me, the unfortunate part of this sequence to me was that I attended Navy bootcamp just a few months after the movie's release - and my last name is Mayo.  My company commander loved to make me do pushups and sit-ups and yell, "Mayo why don't you just quit?" When I finally reached the point at which I couldn't go on I would yell, "I got no place else to go!" and be allowed to get up.

Like the pushups and sit-ups in bootcamp, forgiveness can be hard, grueling or even feel impossible.  That's why it is so important to realize what we talked about in the last blog.  For God's children, forgiveness isn't optional.  We basically have to look up and cry, "I got no place else to go!"  Sometimes, that realization is the only way we can start the work to forgive.  Knowing where to start also helps.

Too often, we tie our forgiveness to the merit of the person needing our forgiveness.  We forgive them if they do some form of penance, or at least apologize.  We can forgive them if they have never done this before.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me right?  We can forgive if the offense is forgivable.  

Forgiveness must instead begin with the merit of our Savior.  He is the one who commanded us to forgive (Matt. 6:14-15 and 18:21-22).  It also begins with realizing our own need for forgiveness.  1 John 1:8 to 2:2 reminds us that we all have sin and that Jesus stands interceding for us, having paid the price for our forgiveness.  It is in taking our own sin and its forgiveness at such a great price, the death of Jesus on the cross, seriously that we find the basis for our forgiving others.  At no time do we more accurately represent Christ to the world than when we forgive others even when they don't deserve it.

Forgiveness is hard, but not too hard, because it doesn't originate from us, but from God.  It is messy - but not too messy, because Jesus' forgiveness of the mess that is our sin proves it.  

So if you are having a hard time forgiving, stop looking at the offense and the offender, look at your savior and your forgiveness.  It's from the power of this grace that you will begin to be able to extend grace to others.