If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
- Luke 6:29
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
- Matthew 6:14-15
Forgiving is not always easy.
My mother claimed that she forgave, but she also claimed that she would never forget. When in her late 70s and early 80s, she sorta, kinda put that principle into action. She roamed the streets of our hometown and reminded the passers-by what horrible thing they did to her in third grade. When asked why she was doing that, her reply was that she thought she was old enough to get away with it. She remembered, but did she really forgive?
When we had only moved to Pennsylvania for a couple of years, my wife went to her preferred grocery store for a large grocery shopping spree, a full basket with things underneath the main cart and hanging off the sides. Her card that she selected for payment was rejected. Well, we had a lot of financial troubles in those days. We owed tons of money to various credit cards and auto loan people. Maybe a bill had not been paid and they froze our account?!?! We pulled out a credit card that was not near the limit, but the cashier did not want a repeat offense. She called the manager over. The manager waved my wife’s card in the air and announced in a loud voice, “We have a delinquent card here and we must investigate. Someone is trying to get away with not paying for groceries. Please use a different checkout until this delinquency is resolved.” As people started cursing and moving to other lines, that were already extremely long, and the woman behind my wife started placing her groceries back into her cart, my wife was sent to “grocery prison,” otherwise known as the manager’s office. My wife offered credit cards and a check. Since the credit union for the check was on the west coast and they were still open that late in the day, the manager called them to confirm the check would clear the account. My wife returned and ran with the cart to the car.
She has never returned to that store. There were much better ways to handle the issue, but what was the issue? She found out from someone who was working in the store that day that the computers were having communication issues with the internet, and random debit cards were being rejected due to not being able to reach the internet, nothing to do with bad credit or insufficient funds. The manager knew this in advance. No apology was made. The manager made the slanderous announcement trying to place the blame on my wife rather than letting everyone know in the store that the store had computer issues and they might face the same problem.
Fast forward over twenty years. I went to the grocery store early. The cashiers were too busy drinking coffee to do their work, so I used self-checkout. I was given a coupon and directed to use it, but it was not the right time to use the coupon. The computer would not let me check out until the error was cleared. The cashier, who had not been doing her job, came over and made me recheck everything in my cart before she scrolled down the screen to see that the coupon had been swiped by the reader at the wrong time. In essence, I was being accused of shoplifting. She specifically said that she was watching me, and I placed an item in the bag that had not been scanned, thus resulting in the error – shoplifting. Other people were staring at me. I was a Sunday school teacher at a church not a half mile from the grocery store. I wondered if there would now be two grocery stores where we could never return. My frozen purchases were starting to melt by the time I got home.
Then, on the day that I am writing this, I had to get a couple of items on my way home from dropping my wife off at kidney dialysis. I checked the internet and the only store that was not well off my route going home, that would be open, was the store that accused me of shoplifting.
My luck! The woman who accused me of shoplifting was the only cashier at her station. I had four items, but she was too busy talking to the other cashier, who was not at her station. “You have to watch these customers like a hawk. They will place things in the lower portion of the cart and hope that you do not see them. If we do not get these younger cashiers to do their jobs, we will all lose our jobs when the customers rob us blind! We need to bring this up at the next employee meeting.” The other cashier agreed. She rang up my four items, pressing down with both hands as she weighed my bananas. Did she want me to pay for the weight of her hands in bananas? Or was cheating the customer something that the store did to make up for the customer cheating them? A preemptive strike, in a way.
And then, I smiled and said, “Thank you and I hope you have a wonderful day.”
She did not smile, but she nodded.
As I walked from the store, I heard a voice in my head, “Forgiveness wasn’t that hard, now, was it?” But I was thinking of how much pain it was at that moment. Forgiveness is not always easy. Here I, an honest customer, was being cheated while being accused of cheating, but bringing that up in conversation would only cause more animosity.
But on my own strength, I doubt if I could have forgiven her at that moment after what she had just said.
Thank You, Lord, for giving me the strength to forgive.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.