To fully face the cost of the forgiveness of our sins is to allow Jesus’s healing love to transform us into a people who can handle offence when they come at us. People who can be a part of a deep, reconciled church community that can go the distance.
I think at its heart the issue of forgiveness comes down to an issue of control. We want to be able to say what is good and what is not for our own self interest.
We don’t want to give our forgiveness and we don’t want to accept forgiveness because to do so would be to let go of our desperate attempts to maintain the illusion of control we try to maintain for our own existence.
Remember the story of Jacob?
His name literally means “the manipulator”. Jacob is born hanging on to his brother’s heel and continues climbing over other people all along the way.
Jacob manipulates his brother Esau out of the birth right that belongs to him as the firstborn. He then manipulates his father to receive the blessing that traditionally went to the first born.
Jacob often gets as good as he gives. In his father-in-law Laban, Jacob meets his match with Laban first swindling him out of 7 years’ service to marry his daughter Leah instead of Rachel and then manipulating him out of another 7 years of service for his daughter Rachel.
Jacob and Laban continue to go at each other until eventually Jacob must flee again, having taken the best of his father-in-law’s flocks, herd and cattle. And Laban catches up with him and they make an agreement. They set up this marker, this boundary stone and agree, in essence: You stay on your side and I’ll stay on mine otherwise may God strike us dead.
Jacob can't go back and then who comes to meet him? Esau. Coming with an army of 400 men.
Jacob can’t go back; Laban is behind him.
What does Jacob do at this point?
He puts all that he has between himself and Esau: all his cattle, all his flocks, all of his herds, all of his servants, even his wives and his children. Everything and everyone is expendable to save his own skin.
Jacob is left alone, he has nothing more to manipulate with. He has lost it all now. It is all out there between him and his brother.
And then Jacob wrestles with God.
And as they wrestle God says to Jacob, “What is your name?”
Of course God knows Jacob’s name. What God is saying to Jacob is, “What kind of person are you, really?”
Jacob answers God, “I am Jacob. I am the manipulator”.
Jacob has come to the point of acknowledging before God the kind of person he really is and inherent in that action is a relinquishing of control. Of letting God be God.
And the outwork of that encounter can be seen immediately.
The next morning Jacob is out in front of everyone going to meet his brother.
No longer is he manipulating others for his own benefit.
No longer is he doing what seems best in his own eyes for his own self-preservation.
He has humbled and surrendered himself.
He has come to the end of himself and has put his trust in God and in doing so he is able to go out to restore the brokenness in his human relationships. To seek forgiveness and reconciliation with his brother.