Forgiveness

There was an incident with a neighbor last night. It really wasn’t a big deal. Or shouldn’t have been, anyway. I found myself feeling very indignant and angry. I was feeling like I had every right to be angry and indignant. I was right and he was wrong. I was going over and over the whole thing in my head, just dwelling on it. I played the what if game, what if I’d said this, what if I’d responded like that. And in all those imaginary scenarios, I made him look stupid, I had the upper hand, my replies were witty and biting. He realized what a jerk he was being and crawled off to bed like a whipped dog.

Then I started plotting how I could get back at him, how I could teach him a lesson. After all, someone needs to show him what it feels like to be on the other end, right?

That’s how I spent my night.

This morning, in the light of day, I’m bleary eyed and tired, and I have no one to blame but myself. The actual incident itself was over in a half hour. My thoughts of retaliation and revenge kept going for another 4 hours.

It reminds of the saying that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The neighbor went to bed, got a good night’s sleep. How fair is that?

I started thinking about forgiveness.

I went onto a bible study site I like and clicked on a study called ‘Getting Along with People’. The first scriptures it uses are Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” and Proverbs 17:14, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.” It says “Being a peacemaker is necessary to get along with others. When our words and actions are peaceful, we are on the right track to getting along.”

My first thought was ‘they don’t have to live next door to xxxx’.  The teaching goes on to Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” and 1 Peter 5:5 “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” It draws this conclusion: “Humility is important in getting along with others. When we focus on others and their needs, and not just on our needs, good relations will follow.”

So this is my thought life after reading this.

Seriously? With xxxx? Be the peace maker? Avoid strife? Peaceful words and actions? I was so sweet to him when I spoke to him, it gave me a toothache. I was so nice and polite it was disgusting. He trampled on it. He sees kindness and manners as a sign of weakness. And focus on his needs not just my own? Are you freaking kidding me? Lets see, what were his needs at the time? More alcohol maybe, louder stereo, for sure he needed a neighbor who wouldn’t bother him when he was partying and disturbing the neighborhood. My needs, let’s see, quiet, sleep, to NOT be screamed at.’

Yeah, this wasn’t working for me, all it did was get my panties in a knot. I needed something to help me get past the feelings of the flesh and to bring my thoughts into obedience to Christ. I’m big on that scripture and try to remind myself of that several times a day.

2 Corinthians 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I went on my walk and spent some time in prayer and then listened to Tim Mackie’s podcast, Exploring My Strange Bible. (I highly recommend it. Brilliant, in depth, informative, it’s awesome.)  I’m listening to the series he does on the book of Matthew. I listened to part 26, called Forgiveness. Tim teaches on Matthew 18:21-35. Now THIS spoke to me. The parable makes sense, it’s exactly what I needed.
Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. We don’t have to love the person or have soft fuzzy feelings toward them. It’s a choice we make. They don’t have to deserve it, they don’t have to be grateful for it, they don’t even have to ask for it.

Forgiveness isn’t reconciliation. It doesn’t make us best friends. We don’t even have to ever see that person again. It doesn’t mean we become doormats.

Forgiveness isn’t even always for the person who has wronged, insulted, hurt, or offended us. It’s a command from God. It’s also for ourselves. It enables us to let go of all those toxic feelings that go against the teachings of Jesus. Jesus died so we could I forgiven for the things I did that don’t deserve forgiveness, how can I hold forgiveness from anyone?

joshtin powers
Flickr

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