My oldest grandson had a habit as a pre-schooler of asking for a “do-over.” When little brother was put in the car first, but Jackson wanted to be first; he would want us to get Ryan out and let him go first. When I started down the stairs to go outside before he was ready, he wanted me to come back upstairs and let him go first. When Papa cut his sandwich in half horizontally, and Jackson wanted it cut diagonally, he would ask Papa to make another one and cut it “the right way.” When someone got the toy from the play room but he wanted to get it, once again he wanted it put back where he could go do it. As you can tell, some of these issues were easy to “fix,” while others weren’t. We didn’t always have the time or inclination to “fix” every situation. Since these situations were so common during that stage of his little life, and since our sweet preschooler needed help learning to handle these disappointments, we took to using the term “rewind.”
“I want a rewind” became a repeated refrain around this Gigi’s house! Sometimes we accommodated his requests, sometimes not. Jackson would even walk in reverse to re-set when we allowed these do-overs. As I observed him during those months of frustration, I couldn’t help but think how many times I have wished I could “rewind” a situation and do something differently as it played out the next time. Even grown-ups can use a “do-over” option. Mistakes happen. Tempers flare unintentionally. Words get misinterpreted. Possessions get lost or damaged. Hearts get wounded. Then comes the embarrassment, regret, broken relationships, and the question of how to “fix” the situation. We all long for help with these “if only” situations. The bad news: we can’t really rewind the clock.
But, I have good news! As with any part of life, scripture offers insight into handling these difficulties! So let’s take a look. Warning: You may not like what God’s word recommends, but that doesn’t make it wrong. That just makes you have to choose to do the right-hard-thing instead of the wrong-easy-thing; it makes you put your big girl pants on! Let’s take a look.
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:12-15
1. Our willingness to forgive shows the condition of our heart. A heart sold out to God forgives and receives forgiveness in return. A heart sold out to self reacts, acts sinfully, and chooses NOT to forgive, and therefore comes face to face with the unforgiving judgment of God. This is made clear in the story from Matthew 18 where the servant who has been forgiven much would not forgive the one who owed him little.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35
2. As we forgive, we reflect to the world the unconditional forgiveness and mercy that God has to offer. When we act like the rest of the world Satan wins and the world never sees that glimpse of God’s forgiveness and mercy.
3. If we think we can come to God through religious rituals while carrying unforgiveness and bitterness in our hearts, we’re mistaken. We must first lay down these offenses and forgive from the heart before offering our prayers and acts of worship.
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Matthew 11:25
4. It’s a command.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” Colossians 3:12-15
1. Once again, it’s a command.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord” James 4:10
2. It follows Jesus’ example.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:3-8
3. Turn the other cheek. It takes mega amounts of humility to turn the other cheek when someone has wronged you. Responding appropriately, with godly behaviors when we feel wronged and mistreated will not happen if we are puffed up with pride.
“You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42
Use gentle words.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Don’t react to someone else’s bad behavior with bad behavior yourself. In today’s society we often have what my grandma would call a “tit for tat” mentality; we reason that since they behaved badly we are justified in responding to them with what we would otherwise consider bad behavior. Let me set the record straight, nothing justifies our bad behavior. Nothing justifies our sinful choice. We are responsible for every choice we make, including our choice of how to respond when people sin against us.
Control yourself in the first place.
Then you won’t need a rewind! Galatians chapter 5 says it all on this subject:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-26
I really don’t like this lesson. It reminds me NOT to live in the flesh, when that is exactly what I want to do in the moment. It gives me a higher standard than the world does, and it doesn’t offer an easy out for any of us. If these were just my words, you could ignore them. If these were just noble, wise sayings I could ignore them and get that revenge I really want to dish out. But these are Our Father’s words. Your Creator’s words. And while I grit my teeth as I bend my knee to obey sometimes, I also realize that His plan is far greater than I comprehend. Living life His way will have long-term good effects on my life that I can’t anticipate, and will make us less apt to need a do-over and more willing to walk through the after effects of those “if only” moments with forgiveness, humility, gentleness, and self-control.
Have some fruit – the fruit of the Spirit that is!