Sometimes those you deeply love crush you to the core. When that happens, the effects can be like a boulder thrown into a still pond. The resulting waves roll out from us, impacting everything and everyone in their wake. Then, the impact of our wounding others rolls out from them and slams into more people, and on and on it goes. Author Sandra Wilson framed it like this: “Hurt people hurt people”. This has been the story of mankind from the beginning. It is my story, and it is probably your story too.
This may be one reason God has a disposition of mercy toward mankind. We have all been both the injured and the injurer. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he cried “Father forgive them because they have no idea what they are doing.” He had perfect clarity about this because he knows everyone’s heart and has witnessed humanity’s harm for each other ripple through the centuries. Those who have wronged us literally have no idea what they are doing or, for the most part, why they are doing it. Ripples of brokenness as old as creation wash like waves into our own brokenness and ultimately ripple through us and into others.
Jesus asks us to forgive those who have done evil us in the same way we he has forgiven us (Matt. 6:12). His position is that although every one of us deserves condemnation, we get a free pass. Forgiving is the mechanism that allows us to give what we have been given. In this way, God’s ripples of mercy fan out from us, short-circuiting the unjust cruelty that has washed into us. And, in the process, the buck stops here.
Oddly enough, when we give his great gift away, we get to keep it. But when we fail to give it to others, we lose it. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt 6:14-15). In our upside-down way of thinking, we must hoard to acquire. It makes no natural sense to give anything away, especially to those who don’t deserve it. Forgiveness is an extremely expensive process. It involves absorbing evil rather than passing it on. It was unbelievably costly for Jesus. It is very costly for us.