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.

Goody Two-Shoes – NOT!

 The fruit of the Spirit is goodness. –Galatians 5:22 NIV

 It wasn’t my mistake, but I’d be the one to pay for it.

When my credit union changed hands, the new company changed the date on which it automatically deducted a $300 loan payment so that the payment would come out two days earlier.

The problem was they never told me. Never sent me a notice, never called me. Nothing.

So when I received a notice that they were docking my checking account $50 for two bounced checks, I called.

“I mailed a check to be deposited two days before the loan payment was due,” I told them. “It was enough to cover the payment.”

That’s when they told me about changing the date. Long story short, they added the $50 back in my account.

I thought that was the end of the matter until I got a bill from the optometrist for $15—the insufficient funds fee from one of the checks my credit union bounced because they took out the loan payment two days early.

I called the optometrist’s office and explained what happened.

“I’m not paying this,” I said firmly. “This wasn’t my fault.”

You know the spiel. The bank charged them the fee, and they were passing it on to me.

I argued with the office manager.

“Somebody has to pay it,” she insisted. “And we aren’t.”

“I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s mistake,” I muttered to myself after I hung up.

Then I pictured the Son of God hanging on a cross. He paid for all of our mistakes. All of our rebellion. All of our wrongs. And He never did a thing wrong.

I called the office manager back and apologized.

“I get yelled at everyday,” she told me, her voice softening. “It’s not often someone calls back and apologizes.”

I thought about calling the credit union or the bank involved and arguing my case with them, but decided it would be easier to pay the $15 than to run headfirst into the concrete wall of corporate policy. My blood pressure is high enough.

“To be good,” reads my Bible dictionary, “is to do what is right. It is to show, by our works, praiseworthy character and moral excellence.”

I’m no goody two-shoes. I fail every day. I get tired of doing the right thing time and time again—only to get slammed, blindsided, taken advantage of, and treated like I’m a nobody.

But that’s why God gave me His Holy Spirit—to help me to do that which I know is right, especially when it’s hard to do.

And sometimes the right thing is to say, “the buck stops here.”

Dear God, forgive me for becoming weary in well-doing. Give me the wisdom to know the right thing to do and the strength and courage to do it. Amen.

Read and reflect on the following Scripture verses:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. –Micah 6:8 NIV

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

 And let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. –Galatians 6:9-10 NIV

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