I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” –Matthew 12:36-37
This may be an interesting verse by which to begin my thoughts on forgiveness. But the subject of forgiveness has hit me in recent years via an interesting tangent.
The use of words.
Though I was taught at a young age that words mattered, this is my personal story of how that teaching was reinforced more specifically in my life.
When I was young, I learned to love words. Learning two languages simultaneously growing up was good. It helped me to understand their deeper meanings and equipped me be able to transfer thoughts from one language to another.
Though having returned to the U.S. in ninth grade, by college, I was still dealing with some insecurity with my use of the English language. After I graduated from college, I took some graduate courses on human communication. The courses helped build my confidence, but I still had to grow more in this area.
Later in life I realized I wanted to write. I wish I had studied writing more in college, but opted to not lament too long and get going in an area where I believed God was calling. I simply “picked up my pen,” and began writing on experiences and spiritual lessons. My aim was to add to the library of thoughts and ideas that might bless others as I had been blessed.
However, I decided that if my words were to be used appropriately for God’s sake, I needed to steer clear of certain themes and ask His guidance in writing. After doing some writing, I realized I had to stop writing one particular theme that seemed appropriate when I first began it, for it was not the direction that would benefit Christ.
I will be accountable for everything I say, and I personally believe, everything I write. It is good to have such a weight on the soul as for the use of words. It is good to forgive and ask forgiveness for words ill-used, even if well-meant. It rights one’s soul with God.
I once heard a well-known theologian say something to the effect, “I like to keep short lists before God; to ask forgiveness and offer it in a timely manner.” Submitting this thought to Christ’s words for by your words you will be justified offered this writer some hope. In the same manner that words can condemn us, they can also free us of that condemnation.
I thought about my confession that Christ is the son of the living God. I then understood that all of my words could be such that they pointed to my confession. At my baptism I had understood correctly that God’s forgiveness not only worked on past sins, but would work on future sins.
So here I was, dealing with what I believed was present day error on my part.
I stood toe to toe with the idea that though my life was currently hidden in Christ*, I still must take appropriate steps when discovering sin in the present. I must resist the urge to feel entitled to receive God’s forgiveness simply because I had been immersed in His name years earlier, relying on the excuse, “well, I meant well…”
It is good to finish what I start. That is, if I sin, responsibility lies with me to make it right before God and any other person I may have affected. It rights my soul with God and others.
But as I stated in my last post, we can only ask forgiveness, we cannot demand it.
I have found myself in wonderful conversations with old friends whom I apologized to for being immature in the least, or at the most felt I did something wrong. I have found so much grace, for many of them had not remembered what I had done. Conversely they had some things they felt they erred on and were asking forgiveness. I had no idea these things bothered them, and had myself forgotten them long ago. Some of these encounters were met with tears of joy, and some with pure laughter.
How sweet it is to be in good fellowship/relationship with others.
Years ago I learned from my father the value of reading the proverbs of the day, and I found the sister to Matthew 12:37.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.**
Words well thought and chosen acquit the word-user before the Lord. They are the fruit of sweetness and goodness that go down into the soul with delight.
This day I seek to use my words better, to be less careless and to be more honoring to those who deserve it, encouraging to those who need it and forgiving to those who ask it. I also will seek to ask forgiveness where I believe I have truly been with fault.
I want to keep that short list before the Lord and those whom I love.
Here’s what I have come to believe so far: The unforgiving are in the least immature, and at most, outright sinful. It is good to apologize for anything that misrepresents Christ, no matter how seemingly small. But in that vein, it is not good to go on and on over minutia that might ironically become a mountain. In turn it is divine to grant forgiveness for another’s failings.
At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts…***
Maybe it would be good to forgive failings of others every seven years? Or how about seven months, seven weeks, seven days, seven hours, seven minutes? Or to be most Godly, seven seconds? The longer I take to forgive, the greater my bitterness grows me to be more like Mr. Scrooge.
This is the long and short of it: Forgiveness is from God. He authors and offers instruction on what it is, how to do it and why it is good for our soul. ****
So who am I to withhold from others who may or may not ask forgiveness?
* Colossians 3:3, **Proverbs 18:21, ***Deuteronomy 15:1, ****Matthew 6:14-15