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I find it amazing how some people are able to open up to complete strangers. The supermarket delivery guy must have been in my house for less than three minutes on Monday morning but, none the less, told me of a family feud between him and his niece and sister. “They’re holding our Christmas tree ransom in their loft until I say sorry to my niece, but I’ve told my partner we’ll have to buy a new tree ’cause it’s not going to happen.” (All this said with a grin on his face.)
“Oh”, I sympathised. “That’s sad – Christmas is about forgiveness.”
“I know.” Same grin. “There’s no telling some people!”
Then he left – and approximately 0.35 seconds after the door had closed, I kicked myself that I hadn’t offered to pray for him. Why?
Because forgiveness is hard. Sometimes we have to forgive people who aren’t even sorry, or who have no idea they’ve hurt us, or refuse to apologise. Sometimes the people we need to forgive aren’t around anymore. Sometimes we have to forgive actions which have had numerous difficult implications for us.
Actually, I take that back. Forgiveness isn’t hard – forgiveness is impossible. I can’t forgive. I just can’t. But I’m privileged to trust in the God who can. The God who is so able to forgive that He willingly, not begrudgingly, sent His Son to live amongst us, understanding what it feels like to be hated, scorned, betrayed, abused. And this Son is so able to forgive that He was prepared to die so that we could be forgiven…and so that we could forgive.
Sometimes the grudges we bear are so old and so engrained that they become part of our identity, and we hardly notice them anymore. It is then that I love this prayer, found in Psalm 139:23-24:
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
I can’t forgive. You can’t forgive. Let’s not kid ourselves. But are we willing to trust that God can forgive, and that He can enable us to forgive others? Are we willing, this Christmastime, to look at the helpless baby in the manger and acknowledge that we need His help?