We must make the effort. Yes, the Lord will empower us but we need to get moving. When Jesus is talking about another of his favorite subjects, i.e. righteousness, he says that those who hunger and thirst for it will be rewarded. He uses two of our most visceral needs – hunger and thirst – to dramatize the point. All of us have known hunger and thirst. Few of us have cried out for righteousness with the same enthusiasm whereby we bust open the refrigerator. It is the distance between those desires that underscores both how far we have to go and how much effort is involved.
And so it goes with this subject of forgiving our enemies. He has said it. We’re to do it. No argument there. But the doing of it is as painful as the process of healing is with a burn victim. Everything comes clamoring to the forefront: pride, justice, defensiveness, honor, logic. All of these get hammered by the attempt. And we find, once we’ve made the effort, it is not as easy as just saying the words of blessing or offering forgiveness. Our brains are wired in such a way that trauma sticks. We end up having a catalogue of offenses that together form a nifty case of forgiveness post-traumatic stress disorder.
What are we to do? First of all we’re to offer ourselves up to the mercies that are new…every morning. God wakes us up and greets us as if every stumble of yesterday is not only old news, but more radically, completely erased from the hard drive. We’re not to presume to labor over our failures if He has chosen not to. That is called grace. That is called mercy. As believers we are invited to avail ourselves of its vast, oceanic supply. If we’ve asked forgiveness then we’ve been forgiven. End of story. He is teaching us something about how to do it by how He does it.
So with this comes a calming down. Yes, we failed. So what? It was expected. How could we not? Do we wish to not fail again, or to be taught how to succeed? If the answer is yes, the lesson has been learned. So we awake the next day with two things going for us. Heaven offers mercy. We offer our “want to.” Heaven will always work with our want-to.