In response, one of our regular readers, Stephen, commented, “forgiving someone isn’t a license for them to keep on running over you (continue hurting you through their actions).” He then mentioned the analogy of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown and asked that I write about this issue.
It was a classic every football season for several years in the Peanuts comic strip. Charlie Brown practicing his place kicking and Lucy holding the football.
Every time Lucy held the ball for Charlie the same thing would happen. Charlie would approach the ball and with all his might was ready to kick the ball out of the end zone. But at the exact moment, the point of no return, Lucy would pick up the ball. Charlie would kick and his unchecked momentum would cause him to fall flat on his back.
One strip opened with Lucy holding the ball, but Charlie Brown wouldn’t kick it. Lucy begged. But Charlie wouldn’t budge.
Charlie said, “Every time I try to kick the ball you remove it and I fall on my back.”
The next few frames had them going back and forth for the longest time. Finally Lucy broke down in tears and confessed, “Charlie Brown I have been so terrible to you over the years, picking up the football like I have. I have played so many cruel tricks on you, but I’ve seen the error of my ways! I’ve seen the hurt look in your eyes when I’ve deceived you. I’ve been wrong, so wrong. Won’t you give a poor penitent girl another chance?”
Characteristically Charlie Brown was touched by her apparent sincerity and moved by her display of sorrow. “Of course,” said Charlie, “I’ll give you another chance.”
So Charlie stepped back. Lucy held the ball. And Charlie ran ready to kick with all his might. Once again at the last possible moment, Lucy picked up the ball and Charlie Brown fell flat on his back.
In the final frame the Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz, has Lucy saying, “Recognizing your faults and actually changing your ways are two different things, Charlie Brown!”
Stephen correctly observes, “Everybody in the world knows that Lucy is going to move the football away at the last second except one person — Charlie Brown. He forgives Lucy every time, continues to believe in her, and continues to place himself in a position to be hurt.”
So what is Charlie Brown and the rest of us to do? How do we deal with the reality of others’ hurtful actions and yet practice 1 Corinthians 13:5?
(1) Love doesn’t minimize the seriousness of sin. It’s not saying, “Oh, no big deal. It really didn’t hurt. Forget it.” On the contrary, sin hurts. When we are wounded by the wrong doing of others, it is disingenuous to say, “no problem.”
Sin should be admitted. Corrected. And repented of. Love doesn’t overlook, whitewash, or diminish others trespasses against us.
(2) Love isn’t resuming a relationship without changes. Forgiveness is not the same as restoring a relationship. Forgiveness is instant. But trust is built over a long period of time. Forgiveness is a salve to begin healing, but it doesn’t remove the scars. Nor does it demand that we continue to allow ourselves to be hurt again and again.
For instance, a treasurer who embezzled money from the church treasury, could genuinely repent of sin, ask forgiveness and be restored to fellowship. However, we would find another Treasurer.
(3) Love isn’t forgetting what happened. We’ve all heard the cliche’ “forgive and forget.” That’s not really possible. Did you ever try to forget something? When you are trying to forget it, what are you focusing on? The very thing you’re trying to forget!
You may repress something, but you don’t literally forget it. A better expression is “Let go. And let God.” Love doesn’t demand wiping the memory bank clean, but we can choose to let it go. Not dwell on it. And not use the record of wrong to get even.
Charlie Brown can apply 1 Corinthians 13:5 without becoming bitter, holding a grudge, or seeking to even the score. But he doesn’t have to allow Lucy to hold the football next year. That’s not keeping a record of wrongs, that’s recognizing someone you can’t trust.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman