The other day I got an email from a friend outlining multiple ways in which I had let her down. It wasn’t easy to read. I actually felt like I had been punched in the gut. Was I really the person she was writing about? Could I have been so mean? Did I really say such hurtful things?
At first I wanted to write a long email back to her explaining and justifying myself point by point through every detail. OK, I’ll confess, I did write a long email explaining and justifying myself point by point through every detail. Then I deleted it.
The reality is, defending myself might have made me feel better but would it have made her feel better? If I wanted the relationship to heal, I needed to tend to her. I needed to put her feelings above mine. I needed to put her needs above mine. She was the one who was hurting, and since she thought I was the reason for her pain, I needed to ask for forgiveness. There is too much history between us to let our relationship go down the drain over misunderstandings so I apologized.
Our pastor once said that marriages don’t end because two people fall out of love; married people fall in and out of love over and over throughout the course of a marriage. However, he said, marriages end when one, or both, spouses fall out of forgiveness.
If we want relationships to last, we must be willing to ask for forgiveness and extend it, it doesn’t matter who is at fault. If both parties are willing to forgive, relationships can endure. When one party decides not to forgive it is a death knell.
Jesus says a lot about forgiveness:
“‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven.’” – Matthew 18:21-22 NLT
“‘If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.’” – Luke 17:3-4 NLT
And Jesus speaks to us about the importance of keeping our relationships right with each other and with him:
“‘So if you are presenting a gift at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Matthew 5:23-24 NLT
Jesus fully understands forgiveness and he also knows a lot about taking hits. Sure, we take hits every now and then – our feelings get hurt, our motives are misunderstood, we are falsely accused, history gets rewritten – but for the most part, we usually earn the hits that come our way. Not Jesus.
Jesus was perfectly innocent when he took the death hit for us. Jesus had never, ever, not once, done anything inappropriate, said anything hurtful, disobeyed God the Father, thought an improper thought, or acted with malice. He never sinned. Period.
“He never sinned,
nor ever deceived anyone.
He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threatened revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
who always judges fairly.
He personally carried our sins
in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
and live for what is right.
By his wounds
you are healed.” – 1 Peter 2:22-24
Jesus took the hits so that you and I don’t have to. He died so that we might live. He endured the wrath of God so that we can be reconciled to God. He overcame so that we might overcome.
I believe that my friend and I will enjoy a strong friendship for the rest of our years on earth, and I believe we will sit together at Jesus’ feet, united in worship, for all eternity. It’s hard to think of the latter if the former were not true.
Have you let a friendship fall away because of a hit? Does it really matter if it was deserved or not? If Jesus died so that our sins might be forgiven, what needs to die in you so that you might ask for forgiveness or extend it?
And if you have a relationship that died because of unforgiveness, Jesus has the power to resurrect dead relationships.
Jesus took the hit for us so that forgiveness is possible – first from God…
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” – 1 John 1:9 NLT
And then from each other…
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” – Colossians 3:14 NLT