By Barry D. Ham Ph.D.
Have you ever passed a police officer and immediately thought, "Oh shoot, was I speeding? I hope I don't get pulled over." You pray the lights don't flip on, and the further you move away the more relieved you feel.
But when it's someone else "driving like a maniac," we want the full force of the law to rain down on them. I remember recently wishing justice upon a guy who was riding my tail and cutting people off. "I sure hope he gets pulled over," I thought to myself.
We want to be off the hook. We want someone else to get what they deserve. And that's the tricky thing about grace, mercy, love, forgiveness. How easy is it to freely receive, yet so hard sometimes to let it flow from us to others?
Jesus said some pretty extreme words about this too, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
I had someone ask me once if this means non-forgiveness towards others is an unforgivable sin, which begins a pretty crazy, circular train of thought. Here's where I land on that, and feel free to disagree—I certainly don't have any credentials.
Jesus was brilliant at speaking to the condition of his hearers and the context of his culture. He often used hyperbole, metaphor, and illustrative language to make a point. I think that's exactly what's happening here.
I imagine Jesus elaborating...
You, who say you have received forgiveness, who claim to participate in this kingdom, if you truly grasped the depth of grace, you would freely give what you've freely received. If you don't, you won't experience the life I offer you.
There is a hardness that forms in our hearts when bitterness and resentment lead. It doesn't make us any less a "child of God," but it sure does interrupt that internal, divine tuning fork to what's happening under the surface and around us.
I want to live in that divine flow of grace. I struggle sometimes to let that flow continue through me, though. It's during those times, when I'm clinging to my own pride and preferences, that I miss out the most on the depth and beauty this life has to offer.
Let it go. I'm not saying not to grieve, not to heal, not to set boundaries, not to protect yourself, to avoid justice...But for your own heart's sake, let it go, whatever it is. It's taken me a long time to truly learn that lesson, and I promise it's better on the other side.