My daughters were fighting the other day. One hit the other in the face. I told the offender to ask the offended for forgiveness. The younger went to the older and said, “Will you forgive me?” The younger responded not with “I forgive you” but with “You’re Welcome.”
At first blush this sounds like a mistake. In expected conversation it is. My daughter, however, was expressing a deeply true theology (unbeknownst to her I am sure).
When we sin against someone, we have maligned the person as well as the relationship. In our culture it is so common to say I’m sorry with no remorse and to offer forgiveness with no thought as to what we are doing. An infraction demands something to be done to set it right. When I steal money, I need to no longer steal AND to give generously (Eph 4.28). When a life is taken, a life needs to be requited (Gen 9.6). There has to be a setting right what was wronged. When we sin against someone, forgiveness doesn’t merely set us back at zero in our relationship with someone (as though or relationships operate on neutral ground). We are either in the positive or negative (so to speak).
1. “I will not dwell on this incident.”
2. “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
3. “I will not talk to others about this incident.”
4. “I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”
My older daughter summed al four of these promises up in two words: “You’re welcome.” She did not have to grant forgiveness–so in a sense the younger was saying “Thank you” to her. Further, the phrase itself opens the door that was previously slammed. She put the mat on her back door and said “You are welcome to come in any time. I will not be bringing this up again out of the blue while we are having a snack this afternoon. When we are 22 years old, I will not be reminding you of the time you slapped me in the face. When I am sad, I will not blame you for my sadness.”
Our offering of forgiveness, is just that…an offering. We open our hands and give it freely. We do not offer conditions to being in relationship with us. Rather, we worship God every time we offer forgiveness. We remind ourselves that he who is given much, gives much. The Father did not withhold his Son, his only Son. Therefore we know that he will give us the grace and satisfaction in him to offer that same kind of forgiveness. Though he still hang on the cross he cries out “Forgive them.” He didn’t say this AFTER they took him down from the cross, but WHILE he was pinned to it. He offered the forgiveness until he uttered his last…
What kind of forgiveness are you offering today? Is it only after the offender has proven she won’t do it again? Is it only after he takes you down from your cross? Or is it while you are still being mocked that you loosen your tongue from the roof of your mouth and say, “I forgive you. May God also forgive you. I do not hold this sin against you, because my Savior did not withhold his forgiveness.”
Recompense will come, but may it not be by our hands. We will either give too much or too little for the offense. We do not know the appropriate measure. We will take an eye for a tooth or a life for a cloak. When we are offended we overestimate. We we offend we under-estimate.
May we, instead, entrust our souls to God and not demand our rights be asserted (1Pet 2.23) as though we are the only offended party in the cosmos. Remember that you first offended.