Bouquets of Forgiveness
by Shelly Esser
I replayed the angry exchange over and over again in my mind. I had said some things to my husband that morning that left me regretful and ashamed. That’s not the way I wanted him to leave for work and I knew I needed to make things right. In the middle of rehearsing my apology and confessing the unloving way I had treated him, the doorbell interrupted my thoughts.
A Bouquet of Grace
I ran upstairs. When I opened the door a huge, beautiful bouquet of flowers greeted me. I was sure the deliveryman had the wrong address. After all, who would be sending me flowers? It wasn’t my birthday or a special occasion. But, yes, it was the right address. The flowers were for me! I eagerly tore open the card to see who they could possibly be from. My heart became overwhelmed and the tears began to flow when I read the card, “I love you, John.” On a day when my behavior was at its worst, my husband sent me flowers. I didn’t even come close to deserving them, yet in my sinfulness and weakness, he reached out to me in love and sent me a bouquet of beautiful grace. He forgave me before I even asked him to. I was stunned. Never was my husband more like Christ than at that moment when he chose to look beyond my sin and instead look at me only with love and compassion. Forgiveness is only possible with that kind of gaze.
Forgiveness Despite Sin
My behavior certainly didn’t warrant a bouquet of flowers, yet that’s what I received. I couldn’t help but think about how in an even greater display of grace, God in Christ forgave us. His display caught the attention of the entire world as He hung on a horrible cross, arms outstretched to us in complete love and compassion, willing to die for our sakes all so we could have forgiveness and life. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were God’s enemies he loved us.
Thinking about the events of the day I began to get a greater picture of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not something we just do internally, but it is to be something that is demonstrated as a result of our extravagant love for others. My husband could have simply forgiven me and moved on, but he went further. He demonstrated his love and forgiveness for me by sending me flowers. I think forgiveness calls for us to demonstrate God’s supernatural love in tangible ways for others. Maybe it’s a phone call, a card, or maybe it’s the removal of some kind of punishment. Somehow, we need to display God’s grace to others as we forgive. God not only loved us, but He demonstrated that love for us with a cross.
Forgiveness Takes the Initiative
Another truth I came away with was that forgiveness always takes the initiative. My husband didn’t wait until I, who wronged him, made the first move. He stepped out and initiated forgiveness towards me just as God took the initiative in bringing about reconciliation to us through the death of Jesus. He didn’t wait until we were sorry, He took the first step. He loved us when we were unlovable; He forgave us when we didn’t even give Him a thought. I don’t know about you, but forgiveness is often hardest for me when someone has deeply wronged me and never apologizes. All of my focus gets placed on when they are going to apologize so I can forgive. No, forgiveness is all about initiating. I reach out and forgive even if there is no apology. “While we were still sinners” Christ died for us and forgave. God’s love focuses on the nature of the one loving rather than on the merit of the one being loved. God’s nature is self-giving love, which always acts in the best interest of His creation, even His enemies. That’s why love and forgiveness go hand in hand. Before we can begin to forgive as God forgives, we have to learn to love as He loves.
The last truth God reminded me of that day was how as 1 Pet. 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” My husband’s love for me certainly covered over my sin and it was sobering. This kind of love is not blind. It sees and accepts the faults of others, but chooses to look beyond it with supernatural eyes. This kind of love is ready to forgive again and again. It finds a way to shelter the wrongdoer from exposure and condemnation. This is how God has treated us and how we are to treat others. Love covereth over. Covereth over. Amazing! That’s exactly what my husband’s love did for me that day -- he covered over my sin and ugliness, demonstrating God’s love. He refused to focus on my faults and instead to focus on love. He dealt graciously with me just as God deals graciously with us.
As Christians we are to display forgiveness. Because we have already been forgiven by God in Christ, we are to forgive others like He does. In fact, we are never more like Christ than when we forgive.
That bouquet of flowers -- a demonstration of God’s grace -- wasn’t the last to show up on my doorstep. There have been many more occasions when I didn’t deserve grace, but the doorbell rang anyway with the same deliveryman presenting me with my husband’s display of love and grace. I wonder…who do you need to send a bouquet of forgiveness to?