The Pace of Forgiveness
I had to laugh this morning as I read John 21. Jesus calls out from the shoreline to the disciples who were struggling with their morning catch. Peter recognizes that it is Jesus and pulls his best Forest Gump impersonation. He jumps right off the boat and leaves the rest of the disciples to gather in the fish and row to shore. What would make him chase after Jesus so passionately that he would leave everything behind so quickly?
Denying the Messiah three times can sear the mind with painful memories. The moment that Peter saw Jesus could have caused him to cower away or maybe hide behind the other disciples. He may have even hid under a tarp. But not Peter. Peter jumped off the ship and swam to Jesus. No waiting, no pausing, no helping with the fish. Forgiveness acts like that. Peter needed it and Jesus longed to give it. He longed to restore Peter – to show him that He had not lost faith in him, despite Peter’s lapse of faith in Jesus.
Many people run from forgiveness. It’s not that they don’t need it. They don’t know they need it. Or maybe they don’t want it or want to give it. Forgiveness carries it’s own pace. It wants to be received much quicker than we want to receive it and it needs to be given far sooner than we relinquish the gift. But it’s not forceful. Forgiveness carries a pace that is aligned with the soul but prolonged by the flesh.
When in Christ, we run toward forgiveness and should be quick to give it. It’s restorative. It heals.
It’s not easy.
Especially when it moves faster than us. It often appears that the more serious the offense, the slower we desire forgiveness to move. We need time to feel sorrow, hate, to cry, and to vent. Unfortunately those feelings can transform from momentary emotions to a permanent perspective. We find ourselves on the hamster wheel of bitterness with no end in sight. If we’re not careful we can allow our resistance to the pace of forgiveness to derail every part of our mission. We may even wonder why God is not using us to our capacity.
What we find is that the pace of forgiveness is the pace of grace and mercy, both given abundantly by Christ. If you’re in a place right now where you are finding it difficult to confront someone who wronged you, to offer forgiveness, and to allow Godly healing to take place, it’s time to jump off the boat and swim toward Jesus. Living a life of unforgiveness is like riding a stationary bike and wondering why the landscape isn’t changing.
I’ll say it again. It’s not easy.
You can do it. You can claim a victory that the enemy has desired to withhold from you. You are an overcomer and you will find more freedom and strength in forgiveness than you ever thought possible. You may be saying, “Pastor Tim, you just don’t know what I’ve been through.” You’re right. I don’t. But I know One who sits on the right hand of God interceding for you and He has set before you the pace of forgiveness and He asks for you to trust Him for the outcome. Our stride toward forgiveness will usually be slower than the beckoning of the Holy Spirit.
If Peter had not boldly swam toward Jesus he may have lived his whole life with regret, bitterness, self-laothing, and a sense of purposelessness. But Jesus restored and set him on a mission. Peter became a pillar of the early church and a catalyst for global transformation.
It’s your turn.