In Matthew, we read a parable by Jesus Christ in which a king decided to settle his accounts with those who owed him money. An unworthy servant was brought before him, and the king forgave him of an enormous debt. In Exodus, we are told that after 200 plus years of servitude, Israel cried out to God who heard and took pity on them. He destroys a nation while protecting His chosen people.
One event is figurative and one literal. The theme of Matthew’s text is God’s forgiveness. The theme in Exodus is God’s protection. Are the two topics related? Perhaps.When asking for forgiveness, are we not asking for protection, as well? If I am in need of forgiveness, I will have to submit to the grace and mercy of another. Perhaps this is why it is so hard to ask for forgiveness.
It is actually quite easy to ask for forgiveness when we are fairly sure that the one we have harmed is kind, caring, or fair. In fact, we will more than likely need forgiveness from someone who can easily be wronged – a mother, a passive spouse, a co-dependent friend – for they may unwittingly be feeding our ego and selfishness. We can, therefore, easily take advantage of them when the opportunity arises. Then when we ask for forgiveness, we are most likely motivated by a desire to be freed from our uncomfortable feelings of guilt or shame (especially if someone else points out our fault in the matter). The smiling face of forgiveness removes the nagging burden of a little wrongdoing, right?
In the larger scheme of committing transgressions or omitting righteous behaviors, the need for forgiveness can become overwhelming. I propose that “hitting bottom” has a lot to do with shocking the brain into thinking about transgressions, but the loss of control in any situation throws me into a panic. And for me, that is the bridge from forgiveness to protection. Being in control means not being in need of anyone’s forgiveness. Israel lived in an unrighteous environment for over 200 years before crying up to God for relief. Did they know they were in sin and needed to seek forgiveness? The servant who had cheated his master continued in his sin until the day of accountability. Did he bathe in his master’s protection without considering that he should ask for forgiveness?
Not until they needed protection did they seek forgiveness. Am I the same? Don’t I seek forgiveness only when I am exposed, facing material losses or humiliation? Protect my reputation, protect my integrity, protect my Christian witness; yes, I am looking for protection as well as relief from guilt and shame. That is what brings my stubborn soul to ask for forgiveness from man and God.
Maybe that is why it is so hard to ask for forgiveness; it is a form of submission and a confession of lost control. It is, however, at this precise vantage point that God is moved to forgive and protect His people.