It's as if we grow up knowing that the three most powerful, most beautiful, most expressive words are "I love you." When I was younger, I stumbled across my mom's journal from her junior year of college. The ONLY entry in the entire thing was, "Last night, Brian said those three words that every girl longs to hear..." I didn't have to ask, "What were those words, Mom?" However, in this post I would like to posit that the three most powerful and significant words that we each long to hear, but rarely do - and offer too infrequently, are the words, "You are forgiven."
How many of us grew up fighting with our siblings? When push finally came to shove and one of us started crying, we immediately had to say, "I'm sorry." Most of the time, we said it reluctantly and without any feeling of sorrow. At certain times, our mothers would make us accept the apology. Sometimes, she even made us say, "I forgive you." Our heart wasn't there, usually. It's like we learned to begrudgingly offer forgiveness.
Here's the reason why I say the words "You are forgiven" are more powerful than, "I forgive you." "I forgive you" positions us in the seat of power. We may offer these words as the injured party to the party that did the injuring...but we don't let go very easily. Stating, "You are forgiven," actually reminds us that this person has been extended the same divine mercy and grace from Jesus Christ that we have. It places me on the same level of this person, which is proper. It reinstates both of us to where we both belong. It's said that at the foot of the cross, there is level ground. The act of reconcialiation voiced in the words, "You are forgiven," places the giver and receiver there.
Today, I witnessed an event where reconciliation was needed. A misplaced scooter fell over and broke a garage door. A blame-game ensued. The boy did what he was supposed to; he put the scooter away - just not where it was supposed to go. It happened to fall over. However, the brunt of the blame was placed on him. He bore the burden of knowing he'd upset his dad and wanted to place the blame anywhere else but on him - but he couldn't.
Last week, I over-reacted in various "discussions" with my parents. It was definitely the weekend of "doing what I don't want to do and not doing that which I want to do" OR more aptly put, "behaving the way I don't want to, and not behaving the way I want to." I apologized - multiple times - and just wanted to know that the love had been restored, even though I acted ridiculously. My little friend in the above story is the same way. He just wants to know that the love is still there even though his mistake may cost his family hundreds of dollars.
Isn't this a position that we all find ourself in, at some point in life? Haven't we all screwed up, behaved in a way that we know is immature and not at all how we know we should act? Everyday we trespass against another - knowingly or unknowingly. AND everyday, somebody else trespasses against us. We want to hold it against those who wrong us because we desparately want to be right. We even try to convince God that it wasn't our fault so that we are in the right. We come by it naturally enough. In the creation story, we learn all about how to play the blame game. When God questions Adam, he's not just blaming Eve. He's really blaming God: "the woman that You put me here with gave me something to eat." He's really saying, "You know, if You hadn't created her, I wouldn't have disobeyed. This really has nothing to do with me. It's really your fault."
Playing the blame game is something we can do all too well. Just because we're good at it does not mean that it's good for us to engage in it. Do we really feel better when we place our hurts and frustrations on another person? How do we feel when it becomes us; when we bear the brunt of the another's trespasses? It doesn't solve anything. It just begins a cycle of blame & guilt & desparately trying to be in the right, while wronging another.
That's what is so remarkable the Cross. It's the great cycle-stopper. On the cross, we're told that Jesus absorbed all of that wrongdoing. All of the ways that we have hurt another, He took that - and nailed it to the cross - where it died. All of the ways that others have hurt us, He took that, too - and they were nailed to the cross - and they died. Additionally, all of the ways that we wronged God by blaming Him for our lot in life, for what we, ourselves, did - He took that, too - and they died. That death erased the scoreboard against us - and 'for' us (the one that makes us more right than another). It made us equal. REALLY - all equally forgiven. All given the equal chance to have new life - by receiving mercy instead of punishment - and grace instead of banishment.
How often do you remind another that they are forgiven? Let's try it. When someone apologizes to us, instead of just saying, "I forgive you," let's also add, "You are forgiven." Let's restore them to their position of love and trust in our lives. Mistakes happen; wronging another happens - let's let people know that we give grace - unmerited favor - because we've been given it, too.
(I'm not advocating being a doormat or allowing behavior that harms you - just petitioning for us to be more quick to remember we are forgiven.)