Bible Reading: Matthew 5:23-26
If you are . . . offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, . . . go and be reconciled to that person. Matthew 5:23-24
The fact that Greg and Brian were best friends since kindergarten didn’t mean they never clashed. It had been three days since the boys had squabbled over cheating in a backyard baseball game, and their anger came out in a fierce fight. As the boys socked and shoved, Greg grabbed Brian’s arm and twisted it behind his back. A moment later when the boys tumbled to the ground, they heard a snap. Brian screamed. His arm was broken.
Even the best of friends can have a lot to learn about forgiveness.
So far you’ve been hearing what forgiveness is. Real forgiveness imitates what God did for us. He took the first step, forgiving us freely and completely even while we were still sinners. But if you want to understand what forgiveness is, you also need to know what forgiveness isn’t. So check out what a busted arm taught two boys:
Forgiveness isn’t earned. Forgiveness doesn’t wait for the other person to come and apologize. If either Greg or Brian had taken the first step and forgiven the other back when they were angry about their ball game, their fight probably wouldn’t have happened.
Forgiveness isn’t pretending a hurt never happened. The cast on Brian’s arm and the pain he felt made it tough to forget how Greg had hurt him. The boys had a problem, and ignoring it wouldn’t make it go away.
Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. Stuck alone at home with a broken arm, Brian didn’t feel much like forgiving. But once he forgave Greg-knowing he was doing what God wanted him to do—he felt better. Forgiveness always starts with a decision.
Forgiveness doesn’t erase consequences. Even after Brian forgave him, Greg was still in a heap of trouble. The boys’ parents made them take a time-out from playing together. And as long as Brian wore his cast, Greg helped in whatever ways he could to make Brian’s life easier.
Phony forgiveness is no forgiveness at all. It helps neither us nor the people who hurt us. So make your forgiveness real. Think hard about what it is-and what it isn’t. And put it into practice!
TALK: When has a family member been deeply hurt—a situation where one of you suffered big-time and needed to forgive the wrong done to you? How completely did you forgive? How hard was it?
PRAY: God, we want to make forgiveness a habit in our life. Help us grow in putting it into practice.
ACT: Talk to God about anyone you need to forgive but haven’t because you misunderstood what forgiveness is and isn’t.