“Ezra, what happened?! You told me on the way here today that you were going to be good and obey!” He leaned in dramatically and said slowly for emphasis, “No, Mama. I told you I would TRY to be good and obey. But then I said ‘but I probably won’t.’”
Taken from my daughter’s Facebook status yesterday, it’s probably the 3-year-old way to verbalize how we all feel sometimes when we fail to live the way we intended. It’s how I feel when I fail to keep the New Year’s resolution about more time for study and prayer. When I fail, yet again, to speak in kindness to my husband, who does love me similarly to the way Jesus loved the church. When I fail to give my friend the World Video Bible School card that I intended to give her in hopes that she would watch a soul-saving lesson. When I fail to encourage the sister at services who has been going through a broadly known temptation to sin. When my voice is larger than my persistence in patience with my children. When my will to be in control of spending is not as firm as my desire for some fleeting pleasure of this world.
“I said I would TRY, God.” How must He feel when I fail over and over?
I suggest that it was not an inexperienced God who answered the question in Matthew 18, “How often shall I forgive my brother who sins against me?…until seven times?”
The “No. I’m telling you to forgive him until seventy-times seven,” answer was not based on any reality of man sinning against man. After all, is there any human being who has trespassed 490 times against Cindy Colley? The answer is no.
But have I…will I transgress that many times against my God? I hope I do not do it in one day, but, alas, I probably have/will in my lifetime. God was saying to me “Be willing to forgive others, to the extent and with the love with which I have forgiven you.”
In fact, He said that His forgiveness of my “490 actual sins” is dependent on my willingness to forgive my brother/sister of the total number of sins for which they seek my forgiveness; even though my burden to forgive will never actually reach the extreme level of God’s willingness to forgive me. The extreme level was/is Calvary.
The lesson is not about overlooking Ezra’s misbehavior. I hope he got the spanking because He will be blessed to have experienced consistent discipline. The lesson is not about God overlooking my sin, either. It’s about the amazing length to which His arm of salvation was willing to reach to pull me from its clutches, because, in His righteousness and justice, He could not overlook it.
I’m so thankful that when I really do try, as His child, he disciplines me, forgives me and then always sits me down again beside Him and gives me another chance. I, like Ezra, am pretty sure I will never get it exactly right. But I will be sitting beside Him when the last service is over, when the last hymn is sung, when the last “amen” has been uttered. And He will just transfer me to sit, once again with Him, around the throne…for always…not because I was perfectly good, but because I was perfectly forgiven at Calvary.
The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:10)