There's a line there! (Why Forgiveness Matters)
May 19, 2018
We live in Canada about 40 minutes from the US border. Going to the border is a very common experience for all of us here. Everyone has a "border story" or two, like the time one of our friends was mistaken for a "really bad guy" this was actual phrase the border officer used to explain to us why our friend was cuffed and taken inside. "Its probably a misunderstanding, he will be out soon", she explained while we tried to gather our intestines which had fallen out when 4 armed guards rushed toward our car with hands on their guns. "oh, ha ha, ok....we will just ......wait over here?"
We cross the border all the time. Most of the time guns are not involved.
There are certain dynamics at the border that you will find in any line up. There are people in a hurry, people who are calm, people who want to cut the line and the people who get really hostile at the people who cut the line.
At the crossing where we go most often, there is a Duty Free Shop that allows people who have made a purchase to cut the line. They get into the parking lot, buy their perfume or whiskey, then they get to exit right at the front of the line. I think if you use your imagination, you can see where this is going.
Sometimes, the line up for the border is over an hour wait, sometimes even more than that. So, when a person has clearly NOT gone into the Duty Free store, but they cut the line and try to enter right at the front....well, let's just say there is a lot of tension. I have seen cars follow closely, like millimetres away from the car in front of them, just to make it impossible for those cheater cars to enter. It just makes people mad.
We have seen full blown fights over this at the border. Fun times.
One day a couple of years ago, we were in a tense line up just like this. It had been a tough journey to get to the border, our small children were small children-ing: they had to go potty 1,000 times, they were hungry, they were crabby, someone touched them, someone looked at them...you get the drill. That day, we were heading down to see my family in Washington and we wanted to get down there as quickly as possible. A trip to the border that would normally take 40 minutes with two grown adults with responsible bladders was now stretching past the two hour mark.
Let's just say my normally reasonable husband was becoming a little less reasonable.
I could tell because he was huffing.
It is never good when a person starts having a huffing session and arguing with the invisible people.
People were cutting the line, people were cutting others off, pushing their way through and well, cheating.
We are rule keepers, us Harvey's, so this was making Shawn mad. Naturally.
I had kind of zoned out, we were two lanes from the Duty Free madness so I was watching the circus over there when I hear Shawn's window roll down. Uh oh.
I turned to see my husband, red faced, neck veins bulging, reaching out and pointing to the ground, which had a very confusing assortment of lines that I think were meant to guide frustrated travellers to the appropriate lane. Well, no one was following the lines and one guy was trying to push his way through and in front of our car.
Not today dude.
"THERE'S A LINE THERE!" I hear my peace loving man yell at the offending car. The driver was fully aware of what he was doing so he just made that annoying teenager face that oozes "what are you going to do about it?" attitude. But the annoying driver did not know that Shawn Harvey was in a MOOD.
So Shawn yelled again "THERE IS A LINE THERE!" and pushed forward until that car had no choice but to back up and offend the car behind us.
The kids went into perfect children mode and shot each other the "daddy has lost it" looks. I sat quietly and focused on not laughing, because I have a really terrible habit of laughing uncontrollably in tense situations. This would not have been helpful.
Eventually we crossed the border and tried to get amnesia about the whole thing. Once Shawn had calmed down, I said in standard wife speak , "are you ok?".
He was fine, of course, but we all learned an important lesson that day: Lines are there for a reason and if we all want to get along, we ought to follow them.
We are all surrounded by people, there are lines everywhere and we all cross them constantly. In light of this, I have been wrestling with a phrase that Jesus spoke when His disciples asked how they should pray.
When I was little, we learned to pray like this:
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
for Thine is the kingdom and the glory forever and ever, Amen.
Anytime Jesus lays out a prototype for prayer we should perk up and pay attention. There is so much packed in those few lines.
Right here, He lays out how to reconcile to God and how to live peaceably others, how to avoid regret by not giving into temptation and be content with our daily bread.
By all counts it is an exquisite road map to a life well lived.
Tucked right in there is a really important piece of the strategy to get along with others:
"forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us".
To trespass is to violate someone else's space. There are serious consequences for trespassing. People get fined, sometimes they get injured when they step into other peoples property.
In essence Jesus is saying that the space that is created around another soul, created in the image of God, is sacred. We should tread lightly. Think about Adam and Eve for a minute. When they are introduced to the Garden of Eden, they are perfect, made in the image of God. You can find it in Genesis 1:26-28
Sacred means: the state of being perceived by religious individuals as associated with divinity and considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspiring awe or reverence among believers.
This means that you and I are made in the image of a Holy God and we are meant to be treated with respect and dignity.
We all know this, it is why we get so mad when we are tossed aside, disregarded or disrespected. It is a violation to the core of our created selves.
The harsh reality is this:
We will trespass and we will trespassed against.
You will hurt me, whether you mean to or not. I will hurt you, hopefully not on purpose. It is just the way us humans roll.
It is also why forgiveness matters.
Forgiveness is the whole fabric of our Christian community - really the whole of society - is dependent on all of us living generous lives and keeping no record of wrongs. I Corinthians 13:4-7
Have you ever done something really dumb or careless and it doesn't matter how hard you try to fix it or say sorry, you just know that things will never be the same between you and that person? Yeah, me too.
Have you ever been hurt by a person and even though they said sorry, you just don't trust them anymore? When I go through this it feels like an invisible wall is built between me and them and I have to work really hard to pull it down. Sometimes I just don't want to. Keeping grudges is easier than keeping my heart open.
CS Lewis sums it up perfectly: To be a Christian is to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
Shawn is right, there isa line there. It is inexcusable to cross it, but we do. Every day.
We are also completely dependent on each persons willingness to forgive and try again.
That is why forgiveness matters.
Forgiveness matters because it is how we will survive and get along.
Forgiveness matters because it is the only way we will grow in maturity.
Forgiveness matters because the way we love each other will show the world that we are followers of Jesus Christ John 13:34-35
No one would ever say it is easy. There are so many reasons not to. What happened to you was wrong, no question about it.
Do the hard work of forgiveness anyway.
Dear Jesus, you knew this practice of forgiveness would be crucial to our existence, you made it so clear. It's messy and hard. Help us, in any circumstance, to be forgiven and to forgive. We live as redeemed souls, completely dependent on your willingness to make up the difference for our inability. Help us, O God, to love the way you love, to keep no record of wrongs and to give our lives generously without expectation of return. We need your help Lord. We receive your grace. Amen.