It’s Christmas night and my kids, ages nine and seven, are exhausted and starting to take out their grumpiness on one another in normal sibling fashion, when my daughter says something hurtful to my son. Nothing malicious, but well beyond the level of banter I usually allow. Of course, I, also being tired and grumpy, begin to reprimand my daughter and list the things she will/should lose as punishment for her harsh words. Only two sentences into my “tough dad” moment and I feel a tap on my arm. It was my son. He looked at me, smiled and said, “It’s OK, Dad. Everybody deserves a second chance.” Cue the proud tears.
I like to convince myself that I’m a decent dad and person, but then my seven-year-old son floors me with honest truth and wisdom beyond his years. I immediately realized he was right, and offered my daughter a chance to apologize. She did, they hugged, and ran off to get ready for bed as best buddies. First, can we agree that parenting is every adjective under the sun…good and bad? Second, how much better off would we be as friends, as a church, as a community if we took the same stance my son did?
Not at all surprising is the fact that Jesus taught this very concept over and over again throughout scripture. My favorite example can be found in Matthew 18:21-22 when the always passionate and somewhat impulsive Peter thinks he is going to display his impeccable character to Jesus. I picture him confidently winking at the other disciples before approaching Jesus and saying, in verse 21, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Peter thought he was giving an outrageously kind number, considering the common teaching of that time was to only forgive someone three times. He was going to get praised by Jesus in front of all the disciples, right?! Wrong.
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”(verse 22) The math doesn’t technically matter because the deeper meaning is this: always forgive because you have always been forgiven. My prayer for us this new year is that we can be a people who not only forgive, but seek forgiveness…because, after all, everyone deserves another chance.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Lamentations 3:21-23 (NLT)