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written by Constance Morgenstern

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“Grudge” is a great word.  It does not fall silkenly off the tongue.  Instead,it kerchunks in the mouth like a shoe tossed into machinery.

That’s appropriate.  When I have a grudge, I feel gummed-up and dysfunctional. 

Or, I’m like a container of acid—acid so nasty I feel it corroding its own jar.  If I, as the “grudger,” am so miserable, I have to wonder what the other person (the “grudgee”) might feel, or those around us, who have to endure the hostility.  What I don’t wonder at all, is why God tells us to settle our conflicts quickly! (Matthew 5:23-24)   

In fact, the Bible has given us a prescribed way to handle disagreement (Matthew 18:15-17), which can help build people up.  It actually does work, especially with other Christians.  There are people I’ve sinned against or disagreed with, where the matter has been settled gracefully.  Plus, I feel even more respect for the other person, and I learn both something not to repeat, as well as something better to model.

But in the case of this song, the writer (ahem) has already missed the boat of graceful resolution, and is standing alone on the dock with mountainous trunks and suitcases of grudge.  What now?

“Pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus said (Matthew 5:44).  I can do that—although I’m quite sure that my first prayers (“God, get that jerk some help!”) are unworthily angry and condescending (Matthew 5:21-22). 

The best sermon I ever heard on forgiveness was actually a demonstration.  The pastor took a piece of magician’s flash paper and lit it over a white, ceramic plate.  Poof!  The paper disappeared in a white burst—and there was no ashy residue on the plate.  That’s what God’s forgiveness is like—total, with no clue that the sin ever happened.  Wow!

We don’t often forgive like that.  And yet, Jesus tells us to forgive others “from the heart” (Matthew 18:35).  How???

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:23-35) is amazing.  The parable tells of a man who owes a king 10,000 “talents.”  If even one, single, talent is worth 15 years of salary for a laborer, we can understand how 10,000 talents is a laughable debt to repay.  Yet, the debtor pleads that he and his family not be sold into slavery, and the king forgives him this monstrous debt!

Leaving the king, the man finds a fellow servant who owes him a few bucks.  He grabs his fellow servant by the throat, demands repayment, ignores the man’s pleading, and has him thrown into prison until he pays.  When this behavior is reported back to the king, the graceless man is himself thrown into prison.  And just as we’re about to spit out, “Good riddance!,” Jesus says that that’s how God will treat us if we don’t forgive.

“Forgive us our debts/trespasses, as we forgive those. . . .” is part of the Lord’s Prayer.  We are clearly supposed to forgive those who sin against us, even if they sin and repent multiple times (Matthew 18:21-22).  Again we wonder, how can we do that?

We cannot.  In old Westerns, when a situation looked hopeless, the cavalry came over the hill to save the day.  Here, it’s the Calvary hill, where Jesus is giving his life for our sins—like our anger to others, our calling each other “fool,” our disobedience in not resolving issues immediately, etc., etc. and etc.!  Finally, we see ourselves, not rejoicing at the prison door clanging shut behind the unmerciful servant, but from inside the cell, our own hands on the bars.

Now, the best testimony I ever read on how to forgive—from a person’s real story—is in the book The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom*.  Corrie Ten Boom lived in Haarlem, Holland, during World War II.  As the Nazi forces took over, her family hid Jews and others in their home—until she ended up at Ravensbruck prison camp, along with her beloved sister who died there.  After the war, Corrie preached widely on forgiveness—and so re-met one of Nazi Secret Service men who had stood guard over her at Ravensbruck!  How she manages to forgive him is a remarkable account (read the book), but here is her conclusion: “When (Christ) tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

Because of Christmas.  Because of Easter.  Because of Good Friday. 

Because of God’s generosity to me, my insides don’t churn acid any more, and I really can wish the other person well.  I can even write to them well, speak to them well, or hug them well.

Because of Christ.



*The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, Barbour Publishing, Inc., Uhrichsville, OH, ©1971.  The quote is from page 231.


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