Thursday, January 17, 2013

Forgiveness is easy to talk about, hard to do.

          There was a man who loved dogs. He served as a speaker in various civic clubs to benefit the SPCA. He was known far and wide as a dog lover. One day his neighbor observed as he poured a new sidewalk in front of his house. About the time he smoothed out the last square foot of cement a large dog strayed across his sidewalk leaving footprints in his wake. The man muttered something under his breath and smoothed out the concrete. He went inside to get some twine to string up around the sidewalk only to discover dog tracks in two directions. He smoothed those out and put up the twine. About five minutes later he looked out and the footprints indicated that the dog had cleared his fence, landed on his sidewalk and walked right through.
          The man was mad now. He troweled the wet concrete smooth again. As he got back to the porch he saw the dog come over and sit right in the middle of his sidewalk. He went inside got his gun and came out and shot the dog dead. The neighbor rushed over, "Why did you do that? I thought you loved dogs." The man responded as he cradled his gun in the crook of his arm. "I do. I do like dogs. I like them in the abstract, not in the concrete.
          I recently saw this amusing story which was written by a pastor named David Leininger. We often speak of things in the abstract but putting them into practice is another matter. Forgiveness is like that. It’s easy to talk about forgiveness but quite another to show it. Forgiveness is fine in the abstract but hard to practice in the concrete.
          Oh, we are quite willing to forgive the new guy at work who parked in OUR parking place by mistake. We’ll forgive our spouse for forgetting our anniversary so long as it happens just once. Are we ready, however, to forgive someone who has really hurt us? Someone who spread lies about us and ruined our reputation? Are we ready to forgive the drunk driver whose car crossed the road’s center line and put our son or daughter into intensive care? Can we find it in our heart to forgive a spouse who has been unfaithful? It’s easy to think of forgiveness in the abstract but hard when it comes to the concrete. More often, our hearts are filled with revenge, anger, and we are just waiting for a chance to get even.
          What helps me to be more forgiving is Jesus? The only way to find the strength for true forgiveness is from him. When those Jesus came to save, cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ response was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) It helps me to be more forgiving when I think of how much forgiveness the Lord has shown to me and how often he has done it.
          Ask the Lord to help you learn to move forgiveness from the abstract to the concrete in your dealings with those around you. Then, ask the Lord to forgive you when you fall short. He will. His forgiveness is always there. You have his Word on it.