Dogs are destructive. Puppies are extremely destructive. They get into everything, they chew up everything, and they go when they feel like they have to go. Most of us love the energy and the enthusiasm of a puppy but we look forward to when that puppy matures a little and doesn’t try to chew everything and is housebroken. But even after a puppy becomes an adult dog, we forgive an awful lot. This thought hit me last night as I was watching part of Marley and Me. If you don’t know the story, it’s about the relationship of a family with an unusually active and destructive yellow labrador retriever. Normally calmer dogs as they grow up, that’s not the case with Marley. Marley stayed rambunctious until old age finally caught up with him. But he was a part of the family, an important part of the family, and all of his misdeeds were forgiven. There was one point in the film where the wife is struggling with the children and Marley was completely out of control. She tells the husband to get rid of Marley. He ends up dropping Marley off at a friend for a few days and when he returns home, the wife asks about Marley. He tells her that Marley is staying with a friend until he can find a more permanent home. Her response is expected: their home is Marley’s home. He just got to be too much for the moment. And all is forgiven.
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. – Matthew 6:14-15, NASB
So why aren’t we the same towards people? Why do we hold grudges so easily and forgive so slowly? I guess one argument could be that people should know better, but that’s not always the case. I know there are times when I’ve said something and you can immediately see the hurt on the other person’s face. The problem was there was a situation just previously that I didn’t know about. And while what I said would normally be totally benign and fine, because of this previous encounter those same innocent words caused pain. That’s a whole lot more unintentional than a dog chewing off the ear of a favorite stuffed animal. Yet almost always the dog is forgiven. But that’s not the case with a situation like I described. We seem to want to hold the grudge, to fail to forgive, to embrace the pain and misery. But that’s not what the Father wants.
The Father wants us to forgive. Others will hurt us. Even those who try their best not to hurt other folks will occasionally do so. That’s part of being imperfect. That’s the cost of struggling with the flesh. We accept that our pets are going to be imperfect. We need to accept the fact that we will be imperfect. We accept that fact in ourselves, but we need to accept that fact with respect to others. And it doesn’t matter if someone does something intentionally or not. We forgive. Jesus doesn’t give any conditions when He lays out the Father’s expectations. So that means there are no conditions. The forgiveness act is supposed to be always and unconditional. That’s what God wants. If we can do it for our pets, why can’t we do it for each other?
Forgiveness is serious business. Remember what Jesus said to Peter when Peter asked about how many times to forgive:
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. – Matthew 18:22, NASB
Other translations may render it seventy-seven times. Either way, that’s a large number. We cannot neglect forgiveness, no matter how hard it may be, no matter how much that other person may have hurt us, no matter how much we want to hang onto that grudge. We’ve got to let all of that go and forgive. If it helps to think about how we respond to our pets, how we so easily forgive the mess in the middle of the floor, or the pillow turned into a winter scene, or the trash can turned over and the trash dragged all over the house, then we should apply that same thinking to other folks. I know that everything I’ve written today is easier said than done. But it is what God expects. And I sure don’t want to appear before Him at the Great White Throne and try to explain how I can so easily forgive my dog, but I couldn’t forgive my fellow man. I know any argument I could come up with won’t do. After all, He forgave me of my sins and look at the cost. Nothing I will go through will cost as much. So forgive I must.