Just a few years ago, I was meeting a friend from church at the bank to handle some church business. I parked my car in what I thought was a secluded area of the parking lot, away from the other cars. My friend followed behind in her car, and for reasons I still do not know, sideswiped the back of my car as she parked next to my car! All she did was scrape some of the paint, but I was upset by the senseless destruction. There was no reason! She could have parked anywhere else where she would have had plenty of room, but no! She had to park right next to my car, and then hit it. She said she was sorry and would pay for it. But as I kept playing the scenario over in my mind, it just upset me that what happened to my poor car was so needless and senseless. It never should have happened.
Later that night I called my lifelong friend back home, so I could vent. (After all, I wasn’t going to gossip about it to my church family or anyone who knew her.) I told my friend back home all the tragic details but assured her my friend would pay for it. After listening, my friend replied, “William do you remember when I bought my brand-new red Pontiac Fiero not long after we graduated from high school?” I replied, “Oh no! I remember now! Don’t remind me.” My friend still continued, “Remember at church while it was still new, you parked next to me and side-scraped it as you left church ? Do you remember how you offered to pay to fix it, but I knew you didn’t have the money. So I just forgave you?”
Immediately I realized that, out of all my friends on earth, God directed me to call this particular friend – the only friend whose car I have ever damaged the exact same way it just happened to me! A friend since early childhood who freely forgave me and never held a grudge. As a matter of fact, in the 35 years since I side-swiped her car in the church parking lot, she never mentioned it once. That is until I told her that I was having trouble forgiving someone who did the exact same thing to me. Then she had to remind me that I had been forgiven, so I must forgive also. It was like the forgiving master telling his unforgiving servant,
Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Matthew 18:33 NLT
I found it was a lot easier to forgive someone once I realized I had been forgiven for the exact same thing. It was good that my friend forgave me and forgot about it, but when my other friend accidentally did the same thing to my car, I should have remembered on my own how freely I had been forgiven and then freely forgive my friend.
For example, Jonah was upset with God for being merciful on such a wicked city, forgetting that the same mercy that spared Nineveh was the same mercy that provided the fish to save him. Jonah should have rejoiced that the same mercy that saved him also saved a wicked city. Maybe Jonah forgot about the mercy that had been shown him.
When we remember all the things we have been forgiven it makes it so much easier to forgive others.