Ephesians 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.Have you ever blown it? Made a huge mistake that you wish you could take back, but it was too late, and someone was hurt, and it was ALL YOUR FAULT?
I sure have. It was my very first year teaching at TCS and my whole focus was my classroom, my students, and the parents. All I wanted to do was my job. I got there early, and left there late. I wanted to succeed and I loved my students. I had 25 students my very first year, 25 students and 2 of which were staff students, and one of which was my principals son...no pressure, yeah, right.
Well, winter rolled around, and we had our first delayed opening. I got the call from the school secretary and even though we had a delayed opening I still got there early. I went to my room and started cleaning, prepping my lessons, for the day, work, work, work, at around 8am I strolled over to Bldg 1 to finally sign in, even though classes wouldn't begin til 9am...but then I got attacked, verbally by another teacher, because I forgot to call her and tell her about the delayed opening...I FORGOT TO CALL her and that meant she came early to school and so did another teacher all because of my error. It was a mistake. I never did a phone chain before. I had no idea. Our principal never discussed it. I felt like an absolute idiot. It was unintentional. It was my first year. It was the first delayed opening. But this teacher had no mercy. She yelled and screamed in my face in front of all the office staff for at least 2 minutes which felt like an eternity. I cried "inwardly" all the way back to my classroom.
A few minutes later another teacher who witnessed the whole thing, and saw how mortified I was, and knew it was my first year, came in to check on me. She graciously extended a hug, which led to real tears, and explained it wasn't my fault, it was an accident, and not to worry about it.
Part of me felt like and idiot, and part of me was angry. I didn't deserve to be treated like that. Yelled at like that. Belittled and made to feel like a fool...BUT I had a choice...I could forgive and forget, or I could hold a grudge...
I honestly don't know how long it took, but I think it was less than a week, but I gussied up enough courage to confront the teacher during our Christmas Concert rehearsal when all the grades were together practicing in the big gym. I remember this so clearly even though this was over 10 years ago. I walked over to her, I knelt down so only she could hear me and I looked her straight in the face, and I...apologized for making her come to work early, I explained I had no idea about the phone chain, and that it would never happen again (I lived in fear the rest of that year whenever there was a delayed opening or snow storm). She graciously forgave me and the bridge was mended.
I could have held a grudge. I could have walked right past her every day and ignored her. I could have gossiped about her, but honestly what would that have done, besides fill me with hate and make me a bitter person? I would be the one who would suffer.
I don't know why I did what I did then, and I can only hope I would have the decency to do that again. The Beauty of Forgiveness says to the other person, "You are more important than I am." It speaks volumes of love and selflessness and it pours on grace. And we could ALL use a little grace.
Romans 12: 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.For me this is one of the hardest verses in the Bible to accomplish because people are so...so...mean! And why should I keep giving mean people the opportunity to hurt me!? And then I remember everything Jesus went through during his short life here on earth. How the people treated him. How they mocked him. Beat him. Spit on him. And I only get small wounds compared to his wounds, and yet He was able to Forgive.
Because everyone deserves a second chance, third chance, and fourth chance, etc... because we shouldn't be counting...because we all mess up, because we don't know what their day or home life was/is like. For all I knew that teacher needed the extra 2 hours to sleep in, and here I went and made her come early! And you know what, it's NOT about ME! It's all about how I can be loving and serve others, and sometimes that means apologizing even when you truly didn't mean to offend someone, just because it's the right thing to do.
I love that verse in Ephesians 4: 32 because it talks about how we are to be tenderhearted. What does tenderhearted mean? It means soft-hearted, easily moved to love, compassionate, loving, sympathetic, easily moved by the troubles of others...the focus is not me, me, me, the focus is others.
My friend Marian put on my Facebook Wall that being tenderhearted is being like a soft pillow...it makes you soft, approachable, people want to be around you, you become a safe place...the opposite would be like a rock...and as far as I can tell you wouldn't want to sleep on a rock, would you? You wouldn't want to approach a hardened heart person, would you?
Ultimately, why do we forgive?
Because He forgave us. We know what it is like to caught dead in our sins, our mistakes, our past, and Christ frees us from the bondage of sin, He died for us. Easily forgave us, because he loved us. He gave up His life willingly because of his compassion for us, his tenderness towards us, His love...how much more should we be willing to extend the Beauty of Forgiveness to others?
God has put this on my heart since December to share with the students at TCS (I'm going to share the life of Joseph in Genesis 37-42, and how he was able to forgive his brothers after all they did to him, throwing him in a pit/well, and then sending him off to slavery in Egypt all because of their jealousy of him, and how he realized that they meant it all for evil, but God meant it for good.) and I wanted to share it with all of you just how thankful I am for the grace that God has given me, and also my friends and family.
Grace is undeserved. But God expects us to willingly forgive, and so we must.
Matthew 6: 14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
The Beauty of Forgiveness doesn't always work both ways. We may extend our hand and still be snubbed. But God's word says, "as far as it depends on YOU be at peace with all men." It does mean that as far as our part goes we need to be loving and forgiving even when others mistreat us. It means we go out of our way to make people feel our love and comfort and feel the peace, not feel uncomfortable, not feel the tension, not feel the anger we might have. Only God can help us to forgive...we need His strength because it just isn't natural or come easily. But the more we offer it, the easier it becomes. The more we seek to not be offended by people and think about their needs or their situation, or their side of the story, the more others focused we become.