In John 13 we find a remarkable scene: Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. When questioned about the act by Peter, Jesus responds, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
John 13:2 reminds us that Jesus knew Judas would betray him, and John 13:3 recounts Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet. Including Judas. Beginning in John 13:21, Jesus – after washing everyone’s feet (including the feet of Judas) – shares that one of them will betray him.
We Talk About Servant Leadership…
… Jesus is our example. Jesus served even the one he knew was going to betray him. I find this mind-boggling. And difficult. Perhaps impossible. But with God, all things are possible.
In my own life I struggle to forgive people who betray or have betrayed me. I am fiercely loyal. I expect – perhaps demand – loyalty from friends. Does that mean I force friends to be loyal? Nope, it doesn’t mean that, but it does mean I will not be your friend unless I sense you are someone who values loyalty in friendship.
I just wrote “I struggle to forgive” but that’s also inaccurate. I have forgiven people who have betrayed me. I have not forgotten, though, and I find myself praying, “Lord, help me remember I have forgiven that person of this offense against me.”
This is difficult when the offender doesn’t acknowledge the offense. There are different ways to not acknowledge the offense:
Perhaps the hardest to remember I’ve forgiven are those who deny they have offended – or deny I have suffered any offense at all. Rationalization occurs when someone offended me but “it was for my own good” or some such. Excusing is not quite an apology, it may be along the lines of “I acknowledge you feel offended by what I did or said, but I don’t accept any responsibility.”
In some cases, my offender is absolutely correct in their denial, rationalization, or excusing their actions and I have absolutely no grounds to be offended; it’s simply my own stubborn pride that’s caused me to be offended.
In other cases, I am absolutely correct and my offender is in denial, rationalizing, or excusing their actions and I have solid grounds to be offended.
Jesus included some language about forgiveness when he responded to the disciple’s request, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”
In Matthew 6:12 we find “… and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” In Luke 11:4, we see this part of the Lord’s prayer rendered: “…and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”
Are we not forgiven unless and until we forgive those who have sinned against us? We are not. See Matthew 6:14-15:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
I don’t know how much plainer Jesus can make it. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Don’t forgive and you will not be forgiven. Amen and ouch.
Part of servant leadership is forgiving those who offend – serving them, even though they will offend. There’s a lot here to think about and to pray about, which is why I wrote it: to remind Future Andy to serve and forgive.