“I gave some of my toys away to a little boy who didn’t have any.”
A couple in their church was preparing to become a foster family. My daughter, in the process of de-cluttering and donating, knew this would be the perfect new home for some of her daughters’ toys. Lauren, who loves them all, was less enthusiastic.
“So when you gave your toys away,” I asked, “how did that make you feel? Were you happy?”
“No,” she said, with drooping eyes and down-turned lips. “I was sad.”
“Well I’m really proud of you. You did a very good thing.”
Lauren’s mama is a smart one. She knows it’s important to teach her young ones to do the right thing, even if they don’t feel like it. It’s good training for the Christian life.
It’s been my observation that it’s easy to obey God when we feel like it. We watch a tender commercial about the homeless, and we can’t wait to write a check to the nearest shelter. We hear a glowing report from a missionary and eagerly sign up to staff the next fundraiser.
But what happens when we know God’s calling us to do something we really don’t want to do? I mean really don’t want to do? Like give away your toys, or forgive someone who's hurt you?
Forgiveness may seem like an odd topic for a Christmas blog post, but it’s really quite appropriate. When you peel back all the layers, Christmas is all about reconciliation and restoration.
Mankind was estranged from God. We had sinned horribly against him. We’d willfully gone our own way, done our own thing, and were living apart from God. Titus 3 describes it this way:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another."
And then God, in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, offered the gift of forgiveness:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”
Once we accepted the gift of his forgiveness, God cancelled our sin debt and welcomed us into the family. Then he gave us an assignment: “Go and do ye likewise.”
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
“He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
This means forgiving others the way he forgave us. Ephesians 4:32 puts it this way:
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Forgiveness, it’s been said, is the gift we eagerly receive and selfishly withhold.
As we prepare to give and receive this Christmas, perhaps the greatest gift we can give isn’t one we want to give, but the gift we need to give—the gift of forgiveness. Are there people in your life who have wronged you? Perhaps the Lord has brought them to mind because he wants you to extend the gift of forgiveness—not just for their sake, but for yours.
And when the Lord calls us to do something, we don’t have the luxury of waiting until we feel like it. To delay is to disobey.
If you do what’s right—what God is calling you to do, the feelings will come. But even if they don’t, God will give you the peace, and joy, and freedom that wholehearted obedience brings. And that is a mighty precious gift.
A wise man once said, “Forgiveness sets a prisoner free. And then you find that the prisoner is you.”
As you prayerfully bestow gifts this Christmas, don’t overlook the gift of forgiveness. It could be the greatest gift you give this year.