Thursday Thoughts: On Forgiveness

I’m going to attempt to limit my Thursday posts to 750 words. That way, I can share a little bit about what I’ve been learning in a more deliberate and organized way – without just dumping the contents of my brain.

I will normally try to have this include both quotes and scripture references, but there might be some exceptions to that. I’ve been reading voraciously lately, which means I have a lot of great places that my thoughts come together from… Regardless, I’ll try to keep my numbers down and my posts more frequent.

I’m still working on the frequency thing. I somehow managed to pick days for regular features that do not work well with my current schedule, so I’m trying to look and work ahead and just release things when those days come… Just FYI.

*****
Psalm 130
My Soul Waits for the LORD
A Song of Ascents
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
*****
As they climbed the steps to the Temple each year to celebrate the Feasts of Unleavened Bread, Weeks, and Tabernacles, the Jews would recite Psalms 120-134 – also known as the “Songs of Ascent.” What an incredible image that brings to my mind: A people chosen by God, reminding themselves three times each year (with every step) just what role God had played in their lives.
I love this psalm, and I come back to it several times each year as I make my way through the Psalms. There is a beauty in the promises of God’s redemption for His people within its words. There is a promise of redemption for me.
This year, the verse, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?” reaches deeper. Last summer, God changed the way I looked at forgiveness for both myself and toward others. This winter, He has been doing so all over again with a second trip through Kelly Minter’s The Fitting Room.
I love what she has to say about Jesus telling Simon the parable of the two debtors after the undesirable woman has washed Jesus’ feet and Simon has scorned her (Luke 7):

Jesus allowed Simon to identify himself with the guy who owed only fifty denarii, while the sinful woman owed five hundred. Of course, this was just an illustration, as sins aren’t counted in currency.

But for a moment Jesus let Simon see himself as the “better” guy (the guy with the smaller debt). The problem, which Jesus pointed out, is that if you don’t have so much as a penny to your name, it doesn’t matter if you owe a dime or the current national debt. If you have no way to pay, both a pack of gum and a shiny red sailboat become equally out of reach. …

By the incredible grace of God – the grace that did not give in to my desperate fancies – He allowed me to see my fifty denarii. And that fifty was no longer four hundred fifty less than five hundred but an incalculable debt that had once separated me from the love of God.

In the face of my own sins of jealousy, control, and obsession, Jesus was allowing me to see my own debt more clearly. I realized it wasn’t really less than the person’s who had hurt me, because the truth is that neither of us had a nickel to pay with. Apart from Jesus, we were both equally bankrupt.

This simple understanding reaches depths of me into which I desperately need the light of grace to shine. Having grown up in a Christian home and predominantly as a believer, it is easy to think like Simon – to feel that I only owe 50 denarii or whatever the currency may be – and it is difficult to think that I owe an incalculable debt.

Incalculable. The economy of mercy is so vastly different from our own.

And, yet, understanding that is the first piece of understanding forgiveness and how it can be walked out with others. No one can stand, but in Him there is forgiveness and plentiful redemption. What beautiful promises.

It is not necessarily an understanding of forgiveness that drives my understanding of what it is to forgive – it is an understanding of grace.

Grace offers what none of us deserves – rescue for the morally bankrupt.

And because I know what grace has been offered to me, I can apply that grace to situations with others. Certainly, there are very real consequences to sin, but there is grace (and forgiveness and compassion) to be had for this life and for the next – and wonder of wonders, it was bought by Someone Else.

Reading: Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vol. I; L. M. Montgomery, Short Stories 1907-1908
Listening to: Bethany Dillon, Waking Up; Jimmy Eat World, Chase This Light

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