Forgiveness — A True Story

Learning to Forgive with Joy

Jim Allen

Not too long ago Jack (a believer) was offended by a young married couple who was unthankful to his wife. The ungrateful young couple, because of mitigating circumstances, worked but was unable to meet the weekly expense of daycare. Jack's wife offered to help without pay. His wife is caring and thoughtful of everyone, herself a mother, and a blessing to everyone.

For several days she cared for the young couple's child. She got up hours earlier than normal and drove miles through heavy traffic on icy roads during the dark of winter. Throughout the day she labored to feed, bathe, and care for the child. Every need was met. It was a labor of love. Nothing was overlooked. But during that time the young couple never thanked Jack's wife, not once.

To them she was a bit of good luck, Jack supposed. At the end of the day his wife was physically exhausted. But she never complained. And through it all she continued giving herself to this young couple knowing "their need" was greater than "her need" for appreciation.

Although Jack was moved by her silent witness, he was annoyed by the young couple's ingratitude. He withdrew his favorable view and judged them to be bad-mannered and lacking. Jack felt justified to think unkindly about them. After all, this couples' ongoing self-serving behavior was offensive to him. But, was Jack right to feel this way?

Jesus said, "And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world" (John 12:47; emphasis added). Today, Jesus is still Savior and still in the mode of not judging anyone for anything, although someday He will (Romans 14:10).

Jesus came to save people out of their darkness, not judge them in it. A judge is someone who makes a determination about someone based on the crime, the facts surrounding the crime, and the law. The apostle Paul underpins the words of Jesus by saying, "For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? ...But those who are outside God judges" (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).

Paul made it clear that believers have no business judging unbelievers for any reason, even though Jack felt justified to do so. Paul is bringing forward a principle of conduct for the church to practice when offended. The word judge means to form an opinion about a person, or in this case a couple, after having given careful thought about the person. The word judge can also mean to execute a form of punishment, which in this story resulted in Jack's withdrawal of his favorable outlook on two people struggling through a difficult financial time.

But, the difference between judging and not judging is this: Unbelievers have only the darkness of the world to light their pathway in life. They cannot see very well, and will often stumble about in darkness unaware of their offensive manner. We have Truth to light our way. We walk in respectful consideration of others knowing their struggles are many. Once, we too were without light and, without the grace of God, also prone to stumble about and offend many unknowingly.

Jesus practiced this principle of not judging when he said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7). And yet, Jesus went on to endure the greatest of all wrongs by feeling the deep sting of human hate that pierced his heart. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Though such forgiveness is incredible and hard to imagine, Jesus possessed the divine virtue of forgiveness that drove his unconditional love.

Jack recognized his wife carried within her soul the virtue of forgiveness. No matter the offense, she easily brushed it aside as frivolous (Matthew 6:14). As Jack examined his own life in view of his wife's godly witness, he was convicted (John 16:8). He knew he would need to replace judgment with forgiving compassion. While a believer would be wrong to look upon anyone in a reproachful manner, Jack did and recognized it to be wrong.

For Jack, recognizing his wife's virtue of being able to give without feeling the need for gratitude was a teachable moment. Jack understood that while serving in a ministry can be rewarding, serving those in need can be equally rewarding if we can get past the ingratitude of many and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39).

In closing, Jack learned that serving others is an opportunity for God to comfort a despairing heart, soothe a weary soul, and impart a needed embrace. Helping others is always good because it is God working in and through us to do His will (Romans 8:28). Helping others is the true reward for the believer even when there is no "thank you" to follow. The divine blessing of peace and joy that overshadows the noble and selfless believer is the divine thank-you we inwardly sense (Luke 6:38).

The feeling of peace and joy is what Jack's wife understood better than he and the lesson Jack was grateful to learn.

Image Credit: timlewisnm; "forgive"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Christian-Life  |  Personal-Relationships

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Published 7-29-2014