I was at a really good Bible study yesterday at St. Andrew’s, Oxford–the sort of group that I would have put together if I were able to put together the ideal women’s group for me. I have been in many small groups through my two + decades as a Christian; this one is closest to the one which, rightly or wrongly, I would have chosen could I have assembled it.
Though the effect the study had on me this morning was more of a Spirit-lightning kind of thing. So mere words may not be able to convey the sort of lightning effect it had.
We looked at the parable of the unmerciful servant, reproduced below if you’d like a refresher.
* * *
It was as if I had got it for the first time. Everything is forgiven me. And so I need to forgive.
God forgives us the mass of sins and wrongdoing we have accumulated though our life, 10,000 talents worth. Ten thousand was the highest number the Greek could count up to, and the denarius was the highest value coin they knew.
None of us, perhaps, are punished proportionately for our sins. I know I am not.
Compared to the huge stack of offences for which a just judge might need to judge us, any individual’s offence against us is small indeed.
But not writing it off, retaining the memory of the wrong and the injustice they have done us, opens us up to judgment from God.
Though he had not held us accountable for all our wrong-doing, in the act of refusing to waive our brother’s sin against us, we open ourselves up to judgement.
And it comes. We are handed over to the torturers until we have paid back all we owe.
I can testify from personal experience that this true.
When I have struggled to forgive, I have been re-injured by by memories of the injustice; by rage and anger at the wrong done me, by memories of my impotence to do anything about it, by the desire for justice to be meted out to those who had wronged me.
So one just has to mentally rip up the cheque of the wrongs committed us into tiny pieces, and hand it to God. He can fling it into the depths of the sea, as he does our own sins, or choose to bring judgement to those who have sinned against us.
Forgiveness is not a matter of the mind and will. It is a transaction of the emotions.
How do we do it? Well, we ask for God’s grace to forgive those who have sinned against us.
And the crucial thing is that we ask God to bless them. It is cognitively impossible to both ask God to bless people, and to wish them ill. So we ask that God forgives us our sins, as we forgive others, that God blesses us, as we bless others. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you.”
And our souls will find rest.
It’s funny, for me there is a link between joy, peace and creativity–and forgiveness. When I tear up the cheques of what people owe me, and pray for them to be blessed, joy and peace, creativity and good ideas flow through me again.
And how quickly one can forget this and get mired in the marshes in which no good things grow. (Ezek:47)
P.S. Writing down my thoughts on this has a minuscle fraction of the power a good story or allegory would have had. Story is really the way to go.