This is a guest post from a first year Coptic "tasoni" (wife of a priest) who is serving alongside her husband at St. Demiana church in Jacksonville, FL. You can read more from her by visiting her blog, copticdadandmom.blogspot.com. If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
At the start of this year's Lenten journey, Fr. Anthony reminded us that it is a journey of forgiveness -- God's forgiving nature towards us and our forgiveness of others. Whenever I think of forgiveness, I imagine a big dramatic scene like the prodigal son running into his father's arms or friends who haven't spoken for decades finally apologizing to each other in their gray years. It's easy to imagine myself being so magnanimous as to take back an errant child or wayward friend. I'm just arrogant enough to picture my dignified acceptance of his or her apology.
But I don't think that's what Christ meant when He asked us to forgive our brothers 490+ times (70 x 7, see Matthew 18:21-22). Scripture warns us not to judge and that the plank is our eye is much larger than the speck in our brothers' eye (see Luke 6:42).
We are so forgiving of our plank. We are so good at finding rational excuses for our sins. When we snap at a coworker, we excuse ourselves because we were tired. When we cross four lanes of traffic to get to our exit, we excuse ourselves because something distracted us. Do we extend the same courtesy when we are snapped at, when someone cuts us off?
We often like to imagine that we are the only ones suffering in this world, the only ones dealing with sorrow, the only ones who are lonely. Everyone else has it perfect and must be held to a higher standard. This is one of the lies of the deceiver. Behind closed doors, others suffer pains of which we are entirely unaware--thank God!--pains we cannot even imagine.
I am asking you today to assume that other people's struggles are more than your own. If you are dealing with illness, there are those whose illness is tougher. If you are dealing with relationship problems, there are those whose relationships are much worse.
At first glance, this doesn't seem to be a very positive attitude, but that's not true. This is the most positive attitude one can have. This is charity at its heart: treating others with love--with constant forgiveness. This is gratitude in action, understanding that your life is full of blessings. If you cannot see those blessings, perhaps it is because you don't seek to understand the hardships that others survive. When you are trapped in the pains of your life, look for someone else to serve, so you can see your life's blessings clearly.
It is not enough to wait for our big movie magic moment of magnanimous forgiveness. We must live in a spirit of constant forgiveness.
Forgive the rude cashier, the bad driver, the dishonest mechanic, the micromanaging boss, the pushy coworker. We have no idea what life is really like for this person.
[Can I also add that you should be forgiving of your priest and his wife (pretty please) as well? And while you're at it, don't forget your Sunday school kids, their parents, all the members of your church... We are all human--100%.]
In the Bible, we are warned that when we are looking at other's sins, we should be aware that we carry much bigger sins. If we have reasonable excuses for our sins, how much more excuse must others have? We ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Are our thoughts about others accusing them (and therefore condemning ourselves) or excusing them (therefore leaving room for our own forgiveness)?
"For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you" (Matthew 7:2).
Be generous in pouring out forgiveness because God yearns to do the same for you.
For discussion: what are some times in your life you have been generous or stingy with forgiveness—or others have been generous or stingy with you?