Day 27 of Lent: Second grade forgiveness
Verse for reflection: Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37
It happened in second grade. I can still see Sandy bending by the shelves that stored our gym shoes at school, desperately trying to scrub mud off my pretty red sneakers with wet paper towels.
“It won’t come off!” she said, shaking her head and close to tears. She had borrowed them without asking and worn them at recess, out in the mud. “I’m sorry,” she said over and over. It was certainly a forgivable offense, but it seemed a large sin to second graders.
“Let’s all hate Sandy,” my friend Sharon conspired on my behalf. So we passed “hate” notes until Sandy was properly ostracized and punished.
Childhood can be a terribly lonely, cruel time. I’m still ashamed, even though we soon forgot about the muddy shoes and Sandy was our friend once again.
Recess on our school’s muddy playground in Middlebury, Ind.
In Matthew 18:23-25, we read the parable of the unmerciful servant who has a huge debt wiped clean, then refuses to go easy on a man who owes him a few dollars. When the king throws the unmerciful servant into prison we read that this is how God will treat us unless we forgive others.
This makes me realize again that forgiveness is not just something nice to do out of the bigness of our hearts. It’s not an extra, it is required of anyone who calls herself Christian.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Like second graders, we have a hard time coughing up the words and meaning them. We have a hard time asking, giving, and receiving forgiveness. Why is it so hard?
Granting forgiveness is something God does, so when we extend forgiveness, we’re behaving a little like God. So no wonder it’s hard to do. This doesn’t mean we put up with abuse or adultery: forgiveness can become too cheap—a “second grade” forgiveness. That’s not what Jesus was talking about in today’s verse. We seek forgiveness with others because we see God more clearly when our slates with God and other human beings are clean.
Action: During this season, may we ponder how much we’ve been forgiven, who we may need to forgive, or who we may need to ask for forgiveness.
Journey Toward Forgiveness is a documentary Mennonite Media produced in 2001 where I learned much about forgiveness in difficult circumstances working as scriptwriter.
A forthcoming book from Herald Press tells 50 stories of grace and forgiveness: FIFTY SHADES OF GRACE.
Photo credits: Sneakers from FreeDigitalPhotos.net Playground photo from Middlebury Elementary School (Ind.) Yearbook, 60s.