“Love is the foolishness of men, and the wisdom of God.”
– Victor Hugo
“Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and kneeled before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’ The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’ He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due.”
– Matthew 18:23-35
We humans are a funny lot – that’s putting it mildly.
We want others to be patient and bear with us as we grow, yet we are quick to criticize, quick to show anger, quick to pronounce judgment.
We want to be accepted for who we are yet condemn others for failing to be a certain person for us.
We want the friendships that make us better, sacrificial friendships, yet we dispose people who have offended us or threaten us – proving their value to us was based on how they made us feel.
We want to be treated as important and be served yet do not show compassion to those who need it most when they need it most.
We want complete forgiveness while selectively being unforgiving.
We want true unconditional love yet we burden others with our conditions – conditions that change depending on how we’re feeling.
We want our record of wrongs to be erased yet we engrave their sins, even their past sins against others, on our stone hearts and hard minds.
We do these and we call it justice, we call it wisdom, we call it survival, we call it discernment, we call it practicality, we even call it obedience sometimes. Yet at the center is fear, self-preservation and the preservation of the chosen ones (those we are comfortable with loving and forgiving). At the center is hurt or the avoidance of hurt. At the center is pride and selfishness – I am more important than him or her. What I think about him or her is more important than him or her. My protection is more important than him or her. My comfort is more important than him or her. My feelings are more important than him or her. My opinions are more important than him or her. My success is more important than him or her. My relatives are more important than the relatives of others. My friends are more important than the friends of others. My children are more important than the children of others. My beliefs are superior to the beliefs of others. My choices are better than his or her choices. My sins are not as bad as those of others.
This is the human heart. This is my heart.
And this is so far from God’s.
If our stronger faith, our learning, our wisdom, and our better decision-making have made us more judgmental and less patient then we should search our hearts.
If our obedience to the law has made us more condescending and suspicious of others then we should search our hearts.
If our relationships with good people have made us less forgiving, more disdainful and less welcoming of bad people then we should search our hearts.
If our blessings and answered prayers have made us forget the prayers of others then we should search our hearts.
If our higher positions have made us look down at others then we must search our hearts.
If our kindness to others, our generosity, and our good works have made us less forgiving of the unkind and selfish then we should search our hearts.
Our hearts are never stagnant, never just in one place, it is either beating towards someone or moving away. We can check our own growth by very simply asking:
“Am I more patient today?”
“Am I more kind today?”
“Am I less envious today?”
“Am I less boastful today?”
“Am I less proud today?”
“Am I more honoring of others today?”
“Am I seeking the interests of others more than my own today?”
“Am I less easily angered?”
“Am I less bitter, more forgiving, and not keeping yesterday’s wrongs on record today?”
“Am I not holding on to evil, but rejoicing in the truth of God’s love today?”
“Am I more protecting of others today?”
“Am I more trusting today?”
“Am I more hopeful today?”
“Am I more persevering today?”
For me, the answer is usually a resounding “NO”. That is the honest truth. Yet when I turn the question back to God and ask:
“Has He been more patient with me today?” YES. He has given me another day with Him.
“Has He been more kind to me today?” YES. I’m breathing His air. Living on His planet. Enjoying His sunshine.
“Is He less envious?” Was He ever envious? He has never zapped any of the girls I liked. In fact, He loves them more than me.
“Has He boasted less today?” He never has. His works boast of His greatness and those who know Him boast of His love, yet all He ever tells me is how much He loves me.
“Has He been proud towards me?” NO. On the contrary, He made Himself lower than me by taking my sins once and for all.
“Has been honoring towards me.” YES. More than I deserve. He has taken a dishonorable man like me and honored me with His loving kindness.
“Has He been self-seeking?” NO. He has been seeking me. He has been self-giving.
“Has He been easily angered with me?” NO. He has been forgiving. He has been patient with my continuous faults. He has been gracious.
“Has He kept a record of my wrongs?” NO. He has taken them upon Himself and paid my price. He has erased my debt.
“Has He rejoiced in my evil?” NO. He has brought the Truth of His love: the Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus died for my sins.
“Has He protected me today?” YES. He has protected me from my sins, from my wrong choices and the wrong choices of others. He has used my hurt to build my character, to strengthen me. He has protected me with His love.
“Has He trusted me?” YES. More than I deserve. I have let Him down, yet He continuous to entrust me with time on this planet, with relationships with people, those He loves most, with His purpose for me.
“Does He still hope for me?” YES. He continues to work in me to realize His plan and purpose in my life.
“Does He persevere with me?” YES. Despite my stubbornness, He doesn’t give up. He is faithful. He perseveres in His love.
The greater our understanding of God’s love, the greater the love we will show others.
In The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the servant owed the King the equivalent $3,000,000,000 USD. Yet the King forgave all His debt. This shows the absurdity of God’s love – the love He wants us to show others.
The servant had a debtor, someone who wronged him, someone who owed him, someone he felt he had the right to collect from, and when that person couldn’t pay, he condemned him to prison. How much did this person owe the servant? The equivalent of $1000.
He had been forgiven $3,000,000,000 yet he could not forgive $1000.
Again, this is my heart. I have banished others to the prison of my bitterness for $1000, maybe even the $1,000,000 offense against me. Yet, God has forgiven my $3,000,000,000 debt.
I don’t want to get what I deserve. I want to get better than I deserve – and I have in Jesus. I must treat others better than they deserve.
We humans are a funny lot – we are a selfish lot. Because of this we cannot embrace fully that His wisdom is summed up in His love. Proof of this is our inability to love – especially those who threaten us, the ones who need our love most.
We humans are a funny lot – we are a selfish lot – we are a rotten lot – we are a proud lot – yet we are loved – so we are forgiven – so we are redeemed – so we are blessed – again, how great have we been loved – so we can love.