“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about my last blog entry about Matthew 5:44, loving your enemies. It’s been on my mind for quite some time. I’ve also thought a lot about Matthew 7:1, judging not or you will be judged. But today, I came across Luke 6:37. Above it, in verse 27 we get Jesus doing like He did in Matthew, saying love your enemies. But here there’s a little different spin. Even sinners love those that love them. True, true. I get that. I know Jesus loved us even when we were sinners, and His enemy. He won me over with His love and grace.
But I’ve been stuck on forgiveness. I hear a lot of people give their opinions about forgiveness. They forgive but don’t forget. Forgiveness is for you. Forgive others because God forgave us. Everyone has their own little take. But today, I got a little lesson in why forgiveness is so powerful.
So today, I got to do family photos for a few good friends of mine that I worked with recently. I got to know them at work, and I trust them. I feel close to them. I love being around them. I just enjoy them as people. They are good people, they care about others, and they are fun to be around. But as I was taking their photos (I’m a photographer, and I love portraits), I thought about some of our history together. We’ve had a lot of good times. Heck, they got me back into Pokemon Go!, as I had no one to play with before (told y’all, I’m a proud nerd). But then I thought of the blowout arguments we had. Some were nasty. At the time, I thought it meant our friendship was over. But it was not! I remember one of them telling me that’s just how family is sometimes. And we forgave each other. Then we lived that out.
I count these people among my closest friends. They’re amazing. And we’ve had these tough moments that were the opposite of that. I’m not sure what even started some of those fights. I remember exactly how a few others started. But here I was at their house tonight, showing them their family photos, not even worried about those times that weren’t good. And I thought that if we had never forgiven each other, look what I’d be missing out on. Today we had a great time, had some fun, and created memories. I’d miss out on that.
Then I thought about other friends and similar disagreements. I know how I was then. It didn’t go well. But we forgave each other. It’s sometimes fun to recount the stories now, but only because we forgave each other and we see how ridiculous it was.
But there are others that I didn’t get that with. Either I didn’t forgive them, or I didn’t come and ask for their forgiveness. Some of them people I was close to. And that bothers me.
I look up at Luke 6:37 instead of Matthew 7:1 because it goes a little further. And for the longest time I figured it was only talking about how God could not forgive us if we did not forgive others. But I wonder if that’s entirely the point. As I’ve said before, we are none of us perfect, especially me. Forgiveness to me says, hey, I know you make mistakes just like me. You’re human, just like me. And I don’t want you to be mad at me and us miss out on a good life. So maybe in that regard, the verse above is saying if we don’t condemn others, they won’t condemn us. If we forgive others, they will forgive us.
I know that won’t always be true. But why can’t it? Certainly not everyone will like me, despite my best efforts. What if me forgiving them and not judging them not only gives room for their humanity, but it gives me room for mine? Maybe over time my “enemies” will see that, and maybe they can come to forgive me for my trespasses.
Forgiveness isn’t just some feel-good expression or feeling. It’s a real, nitty-gritty way to help us love our enemies. It’s work and takes effort. After all, and eye for an eye comes easy and naturally. Justice must be done after all! But then I think, if I truly received justice, I’d never get to Heaven to hug my God in person and thank Him for loving me so much and sacrificing Himself for me. I’d spend eternity without Him. So maybe I don’t want justice. Maybe I need to get better at forgiveness. Forgiveness for those times before made my heart full as I spent it with those same friends today.