Two Christians, Bill and Will, have a problem. Bill borrowed Will’s commentary on Acts. However, Bill then set it down on his desk at home and soon forgot that he had it because his desk was covered with stacks of mail, papers, other books, McDonald’s bags, Bill’s bowling ball bag, an old T-shirt and several shopping lists.
After several weeks had passed, Will began to fume—and fumed some more. Where was his commentary? He waited in vain. Day after day, Will began to think, “Why can’t Bill buy his own commentary? Why keep mine?” Will began to withdraw from Bill. He avoided him at church. Will reasoned that Bill would eventually get the message and return the commentary.
On the other hand, Bill wondered why Will was saying less and less to him. But then, Bill thought, Why borrow trouble? I haven’t done anything to Will, have I?
One day months later, Jill, Bill’s wife, was doing some shoveling in Bill’s office to help him straighten up (actually, Bill had been unable to reach his desk for several days and desperately asked for Jill’s help). Jill found Will’s commentary inside the bowling bag. She told Bill. Bill was chagrined. He called Will to inform him that he had just now found the commentary and that he would need to keep it a while longer to do the study for which he borrowed it in the first place.
Will was speechless with rage as he stared at the phone in unbelief.
Hearing no response from Will, Bill went on to ask Will if he could also borrow a commentary on John, since he (Bill) could not find his. Will slammed the phone down and screamed at his wife, Lil, that he would never talk to Bill again.
Bill wondered why Will slammed the phone down. Did this mean that he couldn’t borrow the John commentary? He began to wonder when Will would come and apologize for being so rude on the phone. Again, Bill reasoned that it really wasn’t his problem. After a moment’s reflection, he asked Jill to pass the shovel.
Is there hope for Bill and Will? How can this relational mess be solved? Is there hope for reconciliation?
The next Sunday, the pastor preached from Luke 17:3-10 on biblical forgiveness. He also referenced Ephesians 4:32, which teaches that we should forgive each other just as we have been forgiven by God. The pastor explained that forgiveness is a promise not to remember nor bring up an offense to myself, God and others. He quoted from Isaiah 43:25, which says “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” The pastor went on to explain that much relational damage is done when offenses are not addressed biblically. He said that apologies are something that theologians do, but the members of his church needed to actually practice biblical forgiveness and the restoration that this brings about.
As the pastor made this application, Jill nudged Bill in the ribs. At the same time, Lil nodded in Bill’s direction to Will. After the service, Bill decided he would indeed have to go to Will about his temper. Will decided that he would have to go to Bill about keeping his commentary so long. Because both men were committed to following the biblical direction of their pastor, in addition to addressing the sins they saw, they also became aware of things they were blind to. They both repented and asked forgiveness from God and each other for their sinful behavior.
Bill’s insensitivity and Will’s temper were both addressed by applying the principles of biblical forgiveness to their situation. However, they were only partly finished with what God had for them.
On the way home, Lil said to Will, “You know, Will, Bill really is a calm person who doesn’t get angry often. Maybe he could help you with your temper.” Will wanted to scowl at Lil. However, he had to admit that maybe, just maybe, she was right. Meanwhile, Jill reminded Bill that Will was the neatest and most organized person that he knew. Maybe Will would have some good ideas about how to be organized.
Both men followed their wives’ suggestions. As a result, both are now good friends who have been an immense blessing to each other. They followed God’s way of forgiveness and experienced the wonderful power of restoration.
I pray that this little story will show how following the biblical pattern of forgiveness can radically change lives.