"Well, you HAVE to forgive me or else you aren't a real Christian!"
We were approximately seven years old. Knees grubby from playing hard in the foothills near our house, feet charcoal from playing hide-and-go-seek on the hot blacktop. And we would've kept playing if he hadn't hit me in the face with the rubber ball.
Hot tears instantly gushed over my little cheeks and I stomped down the hill embarrassed, little sister in tow.
"Come on! I said I was sorry!" he called after me.
Naturally I told him he could forget it. And then passing the baton of guilt he crossed his arms, "Well I guess you aren't a real Christian."
I stopped and turned around. He smiled smugly. He had trapped me. He knew I had been taught people forgiven by God must forgive others.
But every fiber in my scrawny seven-year-old body rebelled against it. Lip trembling I informed him that I did forgive him, but that we were no longer friends.
There, dodged that bullet.
"But that's not REAL forgiveness. If you really forgave me you wouldn't still be angry. You'd be my friend."
This boy did not give up.
Finally, in total frustration and conviction I burst "I don't want to forgive you!! You hurt me!!"
To be honest, I don't remember how this story resolves, expect that my sister and I begged our mom to let us to play at his house the next day, so I think I forgave him.
I still play that dialogue in my head every time I'm confronted with having to forgive someone. It feels wrong. Unjust. The little girl rises up in me and I inwardly stomp my feet.
I'm horrible at forgiveness. There's some rotten little creature inside of me that relishes holding petty grudges. I still grit my teeth and try and find a loop hole. I add secret clauses to my grace.
I forgive you, husband, but let's just not talk for the next few hours.
I forgive you, but next time I'll just do it myself instead of trust you with it.
I forgive you, but I'll be careful next time I share something with you.
I forgive you, but that's the last time...
I'm not a theologian or a therapist. I'm know some wounds run deeper than words, and sometimes protective boundaries must be drawn.
But trust me, friend, the terrible creature inside only wants to harden you with bitterness. Harden you until you can't even stomp your foot in indignation, until you can only watch the world through a crusted lens of contempt.
Forgiveness isn't fair: it's grace. It hurts and requires sacrifice.
For some reason I always think it should feel better. But it never does. Not immediately. Sometimes not even shortly after. It's a courageous heart that actively seeks forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn't fair: it's grace.
Don't think for a second Jesus didn't know what he was asking when he commanded we forgive. The most wounded man in history lifted his arms and forgave the nails, forgave the hands that hammered his, and he forgives all those who ask for grace.
Nothing look more like Jesus than forgiveness. Nothing displays his glory fiercer, brighter like the violent crash of grace on the undeserving.
So today, let that grace crash land on you, and then let it keep crashing down until it reaches everything and everyone you touch.
"Then Peter came and said to Him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'" - Matthew 18:21-22