Keeping Score

Image by Alfred Derks from Pixabay

“Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.” – Matthew 6:12 TEV

“Lord,” Peter once asked Jesus, “how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

Peter was being generous. Seven times was going above and beyond the call of duty. According to Jewish teaching, a man was to forgive someone four times. After that, forgiveness wasn’t required.

Jesus’ answer rocked Peter. “No. Seventy times seven!”

That’s a lot of offenses. If you want to take this literally, get a notebook and jot down when someone says or does something to hurt you. Make sure you number the offenses—because when you get to 491, you can justify your unforgiving heart.

Sound ludicrous? Think about it. Don’t we all keep score? Just get into an argument with someone, and out pours a litany of times that person offended you (or you offended them). True forgiveness doesn’t come easy.

I can think of two times in my professional life when I found forgiveness difficult: when I was cheated out of a job and when a father turned a parent-teacher conference into an attack on me.

The first offense took years for me to get past. But eventually I saw that harboring bitterness was destroying me. Although I haven’t forgotten, I don’t dwell on the injustice—that only serves to stir up anger and hurt. Besides, once God’s plan and purpose were revealed, I saw that it was much better than what I’d wanted at the time.

The second offense still smarts. I was explaining my position to the parent, a professing Christian prominent and active in the church, but my words were skillfully twisted and used against me. I can still feel the anger and frustration, the feelings of helplessness and futility.

One time I bruised my arm, but it didn’t turn black and blue right away. As the days went by, though, the bruise turned darker and uglier. The deeper the bruise, someone told me, the longer it takes to come out.

The same with bruises to our hearts (and, okay, our egos). Only time can ease the pain, mellow the sharpness, sweeten the bitterness.

But we have a choice: Dwell on the injustice and the hurt, or “think” and “thank” — think only good things about the one who offended us (Philippians 4:8) and then thank God for the person, for his positive qualities, for the good that God will work out of what we think of as bad (Romans 8:28).

For a long time afterward, I felt a twinge of pain and anger every time I saw this parent. But I refused to dwell on what happened. Instead I thought of the many ways God blessed this man and is using him in His kingdom, and then I thanked Him.

You know what, now I can’t even remember who he was.

That’s the best way to keep score.

Dear God, You have commanded us to forgive. It’s not an option. Help me to forgive others as You have forgiven me. Replace the anger and pain in my heart with Your love. And if I can’t love the person who hurt me, then I give You permission to love them through me. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 18:21–35.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Clean Out the Closet!

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same any more. A new life has begun! –2 Corinthians 5:17 TLB

I knew I was overdue to clean out my clothes closet when I tried on three outfits for church one Sunday morning and none of them would do.

My wardrobe included three pairs of polyester slacks I’d worn nearly every week for ten years (I exaggerate not) and were coming apart at the seams, missing buttons at the waist, and were way too baggy since I’d lost some weight. My sweaters were fuzzbally, nearly transparent in places, or had shrunk in the wash. Most of my skirts, blouses, and dresses were tired and lifeless and looked like I felt. And most everything was way outdated.

Over the years, I’d added a piece or two to my wardrobe here and there, but, instead of removing anything to make room in my four-foot-wide closet, I simply shoved the old stuff back where it was hard to reach. My dresser drawers weren’t much better. I had to iron anything before I wore it.

Finally I decided it was time. No more hanging on to stuff in case I lost weight or in case I’d want to wear it someday. No more “fat” and “skinny” wardrobes.

My tastes were changing, too. Instead of prints (usually flowers), I wanted solids in shades that complimented my coloring and in styles that complimented my body shape.

So after a daylong shopping trip and another daylong closet-cleaning session, I had fifty empty hangers, two empty dresser drawers, a healthy donation for Goodwill, and an equally healthy donation for the garbage man—and a feeling of being set free.

Every time I wear one of my new outfits, I feel like a new woman, lighter and happier than I’ve felt in years. Amazing how hanging on to useless old things can bog us down.

We do the same spiritually, don’t we? Those old sins are hard to let go because we have a hard time believing we are truly forgiven and so we refuse to forget. We won’t forgive ourselves, so we carry around a load of guilt, thinking this is our penance.

Is that what God does? No!

When we asked for His forgiveness and accepted His Son, we were changed inside. Not patched up, like a garment that needs mending. We were born again (John 3:16), given new life—His life in us. We became not fixed-up versions of our old selves, but brand new persons!

We were washed completely clean (1 John 1:9). All our sin-stain was bleached out entirely by the Son, and our hearts are now as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 51:2,7). All the garbage of sin and guilt was flung as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and God remembers it no more (Jeremiah 31:34).

So why do we? Perhaps because we feel unworthy? But God considered us worthy enough to send His Son to die in our place and open the way to Heaven.

So, Christian, clean out your closet and toss the fuzzbally attitudes, oversized guilt, outdated shame. Don your new clothes—clothes as clean, fresh, and new as a spring morning—clothes that will make you feel like a new person—because, Child of God, you really are.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Amen. (Psalm 51:10,12)

Read and reflect on Matthew 9:14–17.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Image 600-02377761 © Lisa Brdar