Two weeks ago, my pickup was stolen. One of my guys, Izzy, had met a guy Albert and his wife Linda who were without a place to stay, and so Izzy invited them to stay with him in the apartment I let him stay at. Albert did work for me for a couple of days.
Then a week ago last Thursday at midnight, Albert and Linda took Izzys phone and my truck and took off, presumably for North Dakota (although my truck hasn’t been located). It was frustrating– not only because I’d helped Albert, but because I thought it was a bad decision all along for Izzy to have the couple stay at his place, when we hardly knew them. It was an old 1992 truck, but we’d just rebuilt the engine.
Having things like that happen can eat at you– the injustice, the ‘what-if-I’d-only’ scenarios, and frustration with Izzy, myself, and most of all Albert and Linda’s apparent ingratitude. There is a temptation to settle into the frustration itself– the righteous indignation and sense of being a victim which comes along with these situations. When we lose something, especially if we think it by injustice or stupidity, its hard to let it go.
But letting go of such losses is the best thing we can do.
Forgiveness is usually seen as a great act of self-sacrifice on the part of the one forgiving, and primarily as an act of grace towards the one forgiven. But there is some sense in which forgiveness can bring relief to the one who forgives as well. When you forgive and let go of a loss, you are relieved of keeping track of that debt, of tracking down your debtors, of remembering the sourness of frustration and the bitterness of injustice. Those tasks are eliminated if only you can forgive and forget.
We lose things– time, things of value, even elections– to people who in the moment seem to be unaware of the cost of these things, or maybe even without concern for our losses. But it is best to it in that moment of frustration for as short a time as possible. It is not only to the benefit of the one forgiven, but to our own benefit to forgive as soon as possible.
To be able to forgive is a great asset, and those who understand their own need of forgiveness in so many situations are more easily able to respond with real forgiveness. The world is chaotic, unjust, and without a balanced accounting of sensible adjustments to accounts. What is needed is a gracious forgiveness-accounting, which does not expect all the ledgers to line up. An accounting of excess which makes up the difference and fills in the gap when necessary.
We can expect to find plenty of troubles in this world, plenty of irregularities, injustices, and losses. Fortunately for us as Christians, we can come to this table with excess to help make up the difference. That is how we can be peacemakers, full of kindness, goodness, and mercy. But the infinite source of these accounting powers to forgive the differences and debts owed is not in us, but in Christ. It is natural to seek justice for ourselves. It is bizzare to lay down our interests, turn the other cheek, and let it be, intentionally.
Of course that sounds mystical, and maybe even a little fanatical. But the reality of it is found in the responses we have to our losses.
May God have mercy on us all. -andy