Quick, Define Forgiveness

When I was eight or nine I would stretch out in front of our record player with my chin cupped in my hands and listen over and over to a story about a courageous boy who saves a horse he loves from being gored by a bull in a bull fight.

I can still hear the terrified squeal of the horse, the roar of the crowd suddenly sputter and die, the pounding of hooves, the strong, rich voice of the narrator describing the young Spanish boy, sombrero askew, red scarf flying,  gripping the mane of the horse as he flies from certain death over the gate of the bull fighting arena and to freedom.

I listened to that record until I wore the stereo needle and my mother out.

I can’t remember the name of the tale, or the boy, nor many of its details.  I can, however, remember how I felt as if I were that boy: fearless, selfless, making my little life count for something much bigger than anyone around me thought I could.

That story taught me the meaning of bravery and sacrifice like no dictionary definition ever could.  Stories do that.

What is God saying to you through today’s stories?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

2 Samuel 19:11-20:13

John 21:1-25

Psalm 120:1-7

Proverbs 16:16-17

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Samuel 19:11-20:13: One could spend hours trying to understand the how and why of the betrayal and intrigue just in this section of Scripture alone. And doing so might yield some fruit. It might also make one miss the salient point of the story: How much are we each like Shimei, Abishai, and Joab in our betrayal of and double dealing with God? And how much is God like David fearlessly pouring undeserved grace on each of us?

John 16:1-33: Notice the details in this narrative. It’s early in the morning, Peter is unclothed, Jesus builds a fire, they catch 153 fish, Jesus has appeared to them three times. What do these details add to the story? What do they mean? At the very least they mean the author, John, was present and these details spoke to him. What do they speak to you?

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

How much help do you believe the following definition would be to someone who had just been lied to, hurt, or betrayed by a loved one?

Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary says to forgive is “to grant pardon for or remission of an offense, debt, etc.” or “to cease to feel resentment against” someone.

It’s a precise, accurate propositional statement. Good for reminding yourself of what you may not be doing or for reciting in a test, but it’s flat and lacks life, is virtually powerless to produce what it so well defines.

Imagine if when informing us of David regaining the throne, the author of 1 Samuel 19-20 simply wrote, “David granted pardon and ceased to feel resentment against” those who had joined Absalom in betraying him. The Old Testament would be a lot shorter and  profoundly less difficult, complicated, meaningful, and memorable.

So too with how in John 21 John recounts Jesus forgiving Peter. John could merely have listed the facts:

  • Previously Peter denied Jesus three times.
  • Jesus comes to the shore of the lake.
  • Peter swims ashore.
  • Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times.
  • Peter answers yes three times.
  • Jesus cooks some fish.
  • Everyone is happy.

If you recited those facts for a quiz about this section of Scripture you would earn an A, or close to it. But would you know, feel, and understand what forgiveness is? I doubt it.

Therefore, God instead had John show us forgiveness in the story of how Jesus interacted with Peter.

I can see Peter standing in the boat embarrassed, not over being physically naked but emotionally so. I can hear Jesus strong, rich voice asking, “Do you love me?” I, like Peter, hear Jesus’ unspoken, “I love you.” The question and Jesus’ unspoken affirmation are filled with the warmth of love, like the fire Jesus is tending. And in that moment I am Peter. I draw near Jesus’ warmth and I remember how much I hurt him and how much he loves me. I look in his dark eyes and I feel his grace fill me. I weep. Like Peter, I am forgiven.

God’s stories do that.

  1. What details of these stories spoke to you?
  2. Do you learn better by memorizing facts or hearing a story?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Quick, Define Forgiveness

  1. elna

    what I don’t understand is why David was so scared of Joab and his brother(s). Yes,they were cousins, but he kept on trying to find a ‘hero’ that would help him get rid of Joab ie Abner and Amasa. David didn’t tell Joab that he no longer was the commander, he just gave someone else the job, hoping that they will sort out the mess?? What changed David from the fearless soldier to this whimpering man that couldn’t stand up to anyone else? his sons, his enemies, his commanders? Yes, giving grace to your enemies shows a strong character. But was it? because he later on leaves the whole mess for Solomon to sort out?

  2. Once again good thoughts and questions, Elna. I think Joab was more of a threat and less loyal than he seems.

    After David orders him to engage in battle so Uriah will be killed, Joab says, come out here and lead the fight against the city or I will conquer it and name it after myself. That is a threat. Does David know him and fear him? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    Also, I wonder if David’s shadow side of his great mercy was indecisiveness and weakness.

    This also seems like David is bowing under the pressure of a difficult life. The threat of Saul’s family never ceased (and other kings want to be), Israel not accepting him fully, his own sin and mistakes, his family is a mess. I wonder if he is just getting tired. It seems more so later on.

    What do you think the answer to your question is?

  3. One other thought, Elna. Maybe there are gaps in the apparent logic of the story because in reality how we betray God makes no apparent logical sense and why God continues to forgive us wretches less so.

    And though David was a man after God’s own heart, his was a human heart much like mine and, I presume, yours.

  4. elna

    it is very difficult to know what happened 4’000+- years ago ;)) . But so often we seem to loose our edge when things get easy, as in Deut 8. I have found that my faith isn’t in trouble when things go bad but when things go well. It’s then that we have are Bathsheba’s and Uriah times; when we forget that God saved us from an enormous Goliath and we fear the little Joab’s. When we have too much time on our hands. But then still… I am not David and vice versa ;))

  5. Elna, you add so much to the conversation. Thanks for offering your questions and insights.

  6. Pingback: Does Fear Build Faith? « The Year of Living Spiritually

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