Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Handling Your Neighbor Part 4 - Don't hesitate to forgive.

Part 4 is a simple idea - Don't hesitate to forgive.

Well, duh, that's obvious, isn't it? I mean, oh, forgive your neighbor, that's real original, isn't it? No, it's not original, but the problem is we rarely do it. Consider, in the Lord's Prayer, the only time we mention our neighbor it is in the context of forgiveness - forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Your primary relationship with every neighbor is to love and serve them - and this means to forgive them.

That's it. Simple as that.

But here is the rub. Often, we aren't content with simply being those who in love forgive our neighbor. We want to take on extra responsibilities - maybe to be the one to "teach them a lesson" and punish them, make them feel really bad about what they've done. Or maybe we want to be their watchdog, making sure they don't do bad things in the future. Or maybe we even simply are content to hold a grudge, until they show "enough" repentance, so that they never forget how terrible they are.

The above - that's probably not your job.

Well, okay, in some relationships it is. I'm a father - I do have the correction of my son as part of my vocation. But, even bearing that in mind, the greater duty I have is to speak to him forgiveness.

Seriously - think about it. What do you think is more important for your neighbor - correction or forgiveness? Which is the higher goal?

We cannot forget that correction is to lead to forgiveness, that the Law is to lead to the Gospel. And yet - we do. Because we can in our sinfulness really enjoy applying the Law to others.

Forgive your neighbor his trespasses.


Seriously - don't make him jump through hoops. Don't say, "I'll forgive you but you have to promise to never do it again" -- 70 times 7 blows that out of the water. Forgive your neighbor. Show care and concern.

Ah, but what if your neighbor doesn't repent? Hmmm, if your neighbor is unrepentant, shouldn't you bind his sin to him?

Unless you are a pastor dealing with one of your wayward sheep -- no.

Note what happens in Matthew 18 - once you've talked to the person who has sinned against you - it's out of your hands. The church, the clergy will deal with the spiritual aspects for them - the Church is the one that has that authority. But in so far as it relies upon you - turn a blind eye to their sin and remember it no more. Why should you judge your neighbor? Leave that to the Almighty Judge and His representatives. And even then, when they do it, it's not to punish, it's simply to drive to repentance.

Here's the thing - there are two ways in which we can look upon our neighbor - we can look upon them in love and mercy, or we can look upon them in anger and frustration. The first is the way of life, the second is the way of death. When we see and focus on our neighbor's sin, our own sinful flesh tempts us to start thinking in the second way.

Don't do it. Forgive them -- give their sins over. Let God deal with their sins. If they repent and they let those sins remain with Christ - wonderful. If they refuse to repent and cling to their sins, that's sad for them, but at least you aren't drawn down in the muck of hatred and anger with them. Give things over to God.

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This hasn't been very organized. This hasn't been precise. So let me be brief. Your neighbor has done something against you. There will be many thoughts in your head - reasons for you "not" to forgive them. Guess what - 99% of the time, those are stupid and wicked and selfish reasons. Go forgive your neighbor. If we are to love our enemies, we certainly don't need to hold anything against our neighbor.


At all.

God grant me growth in the ways of mercy.

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