Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Matthew 18:21-22

 

“Well, how do I forgive anyway!?” I said aloud. I was off a lake in Zambia, talking to God during my devotion time. My tone was slightly annoyed, almost in contradiction to the serene environment of my morning meditation. My prayer time had been going smoothly, up until the point when the Lord began to uncover instances in my life that warranted forgiveness. I sincerely believed that I had let go of the past, yet God was revealing bitterness and resentment against people, hidden deep in my heart. “You’re going to have to show me what forgiveness is!” I demanded out of frustration.

A Bible on a lakeshore.Hearing nothing from God, I got up in anger and began the journey back to my tent. On my way, I was deep in thought, when suddenly I heard a persistent voice behind me: “excuse me, sir!” “Sir!” “Hello! You there!” Turning around, I was greeted by a small-framed lady with green khaki shorts, a floral-patterned shirt, and an oversized field hat with a strap. Her South African accent and her outfit assured me that, like me, she was visiting these Zambian campgrounds.

“I’ve been looking for you for three hours,” she said. While I was visibly attempting to construct a disarming smile, inwardly, I was bewildered. Who was this lady? I couldn’t recall ever seeing her before. Had we met briefly the night before? As if she could sense my inner dialogue, she quickly answered my unspoken questions.

“We don’t know each other, and this may sound crazy to you,” she started. “This morning while I was praying, the Lord showed me your face and told me give you my Bible.” She handed me this brand-new Bible, which was in a very delicate and feminine Bible cover. And just as soon as she had interrupted my life, she wished me God’s blessings, and walked away.

To be honest, the crazy part was not how God had shown this lady—whom I had never met—my face. Nor was it his insistence that she give me her brand-new Bible. At this point in my life, I was used to miraculous and supernatural occurrences. It was the feminine Bible cover that threw me off. What need did I have for her specific Bible, with a cover that was not even remotely close to what I would have chosen for myself? Well, it turns out that when I unzipped the Bible cover, a pamphlet lay hidden in the side jacket of the cover. The title of the pamphlet was “Learning How to Forgive.” It would seem that God had heard my prayer of exasperation after all and had used the most unusual means to answer.

As leaders, transgressions and trespasses are occupational hazards that come with the position. Additionally, we set the climate and build the cultural norms that either help or hurt those who follow us. If the leader is lazy, it produces a lazy culture, and the people that follow will be lazy. If a leader is joyful, it produces a culture of celebration, and the followers tend to take a jovial lens in all the work they engage in. If leaders walk in unforgiveness and bitterness, it produces a culture of bitter and unforgiving people. A leader crippled by unforgiveness will never be as effective and powerful as they were built to be. In this series, we will explore all that is entailed in the path of forgiveness. Stay tuned, as I share with you what I learned from this mysterious pamphlet in the fold of the Bible.

Prayer:

Father God, teach us the way of forgiveness. Deconstruct our thoughts on what forgiveness is. Give us sound scriptural guidance on how to get free from the pain and hurt of others, especially those who follow us. Show us how to walk in your liberty and victory. In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Conflict Resolution (Matthew 18:15-35)