Ephesians 4:26 says not to sin in your anger - not to let the sun go down while you are still angry. Yet, the sun has gone down many times and it will go down many more times before I am empty of this fury. In my desire to work through this in a way that honors God, I searched scripture and found not comfort but condemnation. Jesus tells us that if a man looks a woman in lust, then he has already committed adultery in his heart. I refer you back to my thoughts in the first paragraph where, as Christ sees it, I am a murderer. Why, when I am the injured party, am I the one being convicted?
Perhaps because God is love and I’m not feeling very “love”ly right now. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11) God reached out to us first. We hurt him deeply time and time again, and yet, he reaches out to us without fail. He doesn’t wait for us to grovel on the ground in repentance to love us. In his love, he seeks us out and calls us to him. His love is not conditional on our repentance. In fact, it seems to me that our repentance is a direct response to his love and grace. This is the kind of love we are told to extend to others. Love first, always, and without condition. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12)
I know that with God’s help and healing, in time, I will come to forgive this person whether or not this person seeks forgiveness. It’s a very hard thing to do, to put aside one’s pride and claim to justice, and to forgive those who do not seek forgiveness. How can there be forgiveness without repentance? God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24) God didn’t wait for us to come to him in repentance – in his great love he provided forgiveness, the means for our reconciliation in Christ, first. I am to forgive freely as God has forgiven me. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our *debts (trespasses, sins) as we forgive *our debtors (those who trespass against us, those who sin against us). How can I pray that and not offer forgiveness to this person?
At first, I was concerned that I was taking too long…that I might let too many suns go down. But then I remembered Psalm 103 that reassures me that He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:14). No one knows the human heart better than he who created it. He knows that our sinfulness has penetrated our whole being and will continue to be a part of us, a part that we constantly struggle to reject, fail to deny, and repent of. Unlike humanity, the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103:8) I am a work in progress, and he knows it. By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14) Christ sacrifice is enough to redeem all of me for as long as it takes.
It seems that my hunt through scripture this week was a great comfort after all. My situation hasn’t changed. However, I’ve been reminded that we’re all the same. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. The difference now is that I no longer feel the guilt and separation from God I did when I started this week. Instead I have been led to recognize the sinfulness in humanity, specifically in myself, making me even more keenly aware of my great need for a Savior and even more blessed to know and love Jesus Christ.
About the pictures:
Parkwood Presbyterian Church Prayer Garden (July 2011)