Forgiving the Forgivers

By Paul Koch

It was an Easter Day brunch at the church. Everyone was all smiles and dressed up and having a good time. There was ample food, and the kids were excited to do the traditional egg hunt. It was fun. It was a celebration and rightly so. For this is the day that our Lord rose victorious from the grave. This is the day in which our hope and confidence as the children of God is reinvigorated.

But as I watched this family of God’s children enjoying the festivities, I became a bit withdrawn when I spied a young man who hadn’t been in church in a long time. Now, it’s not unusual to have people show up on Easter Day when they haven’t been there for weeks or months before. In fact, it’s to be expected. And usually I’m thrilled that they’re back. But I knew that this particular young man’s distance from the church, his distance from the gifts of Christ, was in some way my fault. And watching him brought it all flooding back.

His parents had gone through a divorce. Like most divorces it was fueled by selfishness and marked by a lot of pain. I had tried to sit with his parents, tried to see them through the journey of separation when reconciliation was discarded, all without ostracizing them from the gifts of Christ. In the end, it was their son who got lost in it all. At this time of pain and turmoil, the church was silent for him. Not that it was by nature, but that’s the way it worked out. Everyone was so concerned about mom and dad that they forgot about the child. The church failed him. I failed him.

Fast forward to last Sunday evening, I sat on a barstool next to a friend. He was talking about the struggles of families today, the perceived lack of tools for couples to succeed in marriage, and the heartache that marks so many lives. All this I knew; all this you know as well. But then he said something that shocked me. In talking about our brothers and sisters in Christ, he said, “It weighs on the lives of others, not just those going through it. I’ve seen it. It weighs on your life. It affects you.”

Indeed it does, though I don’t like to admit it. In fact, I thought I hid it better than that.

I am called to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. To wield his words, to kill and bring forth life, to bind and loose sins. And when I fail there are ramifications. Pains lived out in real lives, not theoretical disappointments. I am a forgiver who fails to hand over that which I’ve received and that can cause powerful wounds and therefore can keep people from the gifts of Christ. It hurts to say it, to write it, to confess it.

The burden is real, and it weighs heavily.

Be ready to forgive the forgivers, to speak of the wondrous love of Christ to those poor sinners called to speak it to the assembly. For without it, there is only pain and regret, and it all comes tumbling down.

One thought on “Forgiving the Forgivers

  1. Paul, you have touched a nerve. Even having a strong faith in Our Lord does not prevent us from still leading lives of quiet desperation. If we could use some type of meter to measure the percent of joy and peace in our lives, in comparison to the sorrow and sadness, worry and anxiety, I wonder how we would each rate ourselves? The consequences of sin by one individual or two, in the case of a bitter divorce, for example, always affects the children in some negative way or another. Loss of trust, insecurity, lifelong buried hostility? Often, the children of divorce are likely to get a divorce themselves as adults. It is a cycle which repeats itself in our society. As we look at others at Church, and on the street and in the stores and malls, we often see worried and troubled expressions painted across the faces of certain people. You almost want to reach out and say, “It will be OK. God loves you too.” Yet you know many people cannot bear to hear it. Their lives are too complicated. But we have to remain compassionate, prayerful, and helpful to those experiencing bad things in our circle of acquaintances. I suppose our mission field is never ending, and it may begin with the troubled soul sitting next to us.

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