Tongue sticking out to the side, head bent over the desk in concentration, Billy carefully printed the English words on his phonics worksheet as I watched in amazement. It was a day I never thought would come. Billy typified the overindulged only child referred to in East Asia as the “little emperor.” The defiant four-year-old usually challenged my every instruction, but today he willingly joined with the other students to sing “Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” And the same little boy who usually shouted his demands across the room today cheerfully said, “Thank you, Teacher,” when I gave him a pencil! With a mischievous grin, Billy called out “Goodbye, Teacher!” as he bounded down the stairs at the end of class, and I couldn’t help but smile. My heart was hopeful that maybe, just maybe, Billy was turning over a new leaf.
The very next class, however, “the little emperor” was back with a vengeance. Billy scribbled with black crayon on Jenny’s notebook, laughing when she cried. He gleefully snipped my teaching assistant’s shirt hem with his scissors, and when confronted, yelled “SORRY!” in her face like a verbal attack. And when I gently reminded him to say thank you for a pencil, he angrily retorted in Chinese, “I WON’T say thank you! You haven’t given me an ERASER yet!”
The day Billy marched into my life, he challenged my ability to forgive. Over and over again I had to choose to forgive him, even though he never apologized for his actions or admitted he was wrong. When I finally came to a place of acknowledging that Billy owes me nothing, not even an apology or a change in behavior, the Father changed my heart towards Billy. I experienced a release and a peace that I hadn’t had before. I was actually able to love him. And I even started to like him!
Forgive the Difficult People in Your Life
Peter must have thought he was being quite generous when he asked Jesus if he should forgive someone not once, not twice, not three times, but seven times for the same offense. I wonder if Peter thought of a “Billy” in his life when Jesus replied that we should forgive “not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Just as I had to forgive Billy repeatedly for the same offense, with no evidence of his repentance or a changed heart, God the Father continually forgives our rotten attitudes and sinful behavior, many more times than seventy times seven. I’m so glad there’s no limit to His mercy!
Ask God to give you the grace to forgive the difficult people in your life. Cancel the debt. Release them to God. Declare that they owe you nothing. As we have been forgiven, so let us forgive one another!
*Name has been changed.