By Cara Cobble Trantham
It’s pouring down rain today. I love loud, wet, serious rain. I despise wimpy, slanted, spattering rain. If you’re going to take the sun away from me, be a force. Get ‘er done. Show the ground you mean business. Don’t take all day to make the grass damp! Soak it. Give it your best thunder, lightning, wind… the works, if you wish. Make me use my cute Thirty-One umbrella and my rain boots.
I know that there are facts to support the fact that heavy rains don’t nourish the ground the same way that slow, steady pellet rains do. The force sends it off the clods and into the streets and byways, down drains and into ponds and puddles. It doesn’t stick around long enough to really travel down into the roots, deep where the plant begins thriving, down below the surface.
I often want forgiveness to be like a good, hard rain. I want to just do the thing. Give a drive-by apology. Make amends. Kiss and make up. Put the issue behind us.
But it’s the slow, steady, every day, minute-by-minute forgiveness that nourishes deep into the soul, that mirrors the forgiveness our heavenly Father gives us. The real, true, refuse-to-leave kind. The kind that overlooks huge, nasty wrongs and minuscule, annoying offenses. The kind that doesn’t turn a blind eye but instead loves in spite of all the ugly. The kind that sees each thought preceding the biting words, each motive behind the cruel actions, and still stays for the long haul.
I’m not good at this kind of forgiveness. I’m best at the kind that forgives once and then tries to forget about it. It’s the things that require continual, faithful, not again forgiveness that grate on me. The ones that have lies attached to them. The ones that make me feel unloved and disrespected. The ones that put a chip on my shoulder. The ones that make me question the righteousness of another person, forgetting how unrighteous I myself am. The enemy loves to take our eyes off our own unworthiness and put it on the wrongdoings of others, because in our view, that diminishes the seriousness of our own sin.
The Bible tells us that if we don’t forgive, our Father in heaven won’t forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15). I’m not here to theologically debate that to its very core, but it demonstrates how high a priority the Lord puts on this instruction to forgive one another. One of the marks that we are Christ’s is the brand of forgiveness. When we wear forgiveness humbly, we show the world that He is powerful enough to forgive them.
Listen, I realize this is a high calling. Peter thought forgiving someone seven times was a high standard, one worthy of commendation. Yet, seven times seventy times (in other words, infinitely) is the standard followers of Jesus should maintain. There are so many books and discussions circulating that debate this issue. There are things that will seem unforgivable. Aren’t there? Aren’t there things that will seem like they shouldn’t be forgiven? Truthfully, we don’t get to determine that. Jesus leveled the playing field at the cross. Every sin, no matter how heinous or trite, is covered by the blood. If that jars us a little bit, it should. Because that’s how wide grace is.
We keep extending forgiveness because we keep needing it.
When we ask Jesus to erase our sin, He extends forgiveness like a downpour, washing away all of our past sins with one fell swoop. And He simultaneously extends it in the form of a slow, steady, constant, loving drip, interceding for us at the right hand of the Father each and every day for the rest of our lives (Romans 8:33-35). To the extent that we have experienced this saving grace, we gift it to others. And the miracle? As we extend forgiveness, we receive nourishment down to the root of our very souls (Luke 6:38).
And life-giving nourishment swims up above the surface, producing a beautiful crop of redemption.