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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

No Strings Attached

January 28th, 2008

In demonstrating Saladmaster cookware I have fun showing off the Saladmaster machine. Invented back in 1946 by a man named Harry Lemmons, it’s an amazing food processor that is unique in its simplicity, efficiency and design.

One thing I show customers is what it can do with a stalk of celery. Everyone’s least favorite part of celery is the string. It’s difficult to digest and it’s also the bitter part of the vegetable. Yet run it through the Saladmaster machine and voila! It cleanly pulls off the sweet part of the celery that you’d want in your chicken salad while leaving the strings behind. Sometimes I crack the bad joke, “With Saladmaster, there’s no strings attached.”

Last week as I was cooking for some people, running a couple stalks of celery through the machine, it occurred to me that I wish forgiveness was as easy as this. A quick spin of the handle, leaving sweetness in one hand and bitter strings in the other. An easy way to separate the good from the bad. One to keep, one to throw away.

Genuine forgiveness is harder than that.

More often than not we forgive with strings attached. I will forgive…

…if

…when

…after

…until

…only

It’s curious in a sad sort of way, this business of forgiving with strings attached. Outwardly, we extend our “forgiveness” because it makes us feel better and look better to other people. We’re taking the high road, being the bigger person. Sometimes we even build imaginary martyr statues of ourselves; a tribute to our benevolent nature and a place where we mentally kneel and pay homage to the nobility of our pain.

Not only are the strings attached, we’re the one holding on to them. Which is to say we have a firm grip on our bitterness. There is something within that is loath to let go of a wrong done to us. We want the control. We want to reserve the right to pull back the forgiveness if and when it is no longer merited. We want to reserve the right to vindicate ourselves. We want to reserve the right to mete out judgment should God or the reproofs of life fail to punish our offender to a degree that satisfies our sense of fairness.

The very fact that we attach a condition to our forgiveness proves that we believe, consciously or otherwise, that we are in a superior position to judge the failures of another person.

Can I say it? When we hold on to the strings, it means we are not in touch with our own sinfulness.

It is inherent within our sin nature not to allow us to view ourselves with complete objectivity. Put another way, it is our fallen nature that prevents us from seeing how fallen we truly are. Our sin nature doesn’t want to admit that the hand holding the strings is unqualified to do so. Instead, it resorts to a sliding scale of holiness. As long as we feel we’re better than the person who hurt us, then we justify having the right to set the conditions for forgiveness to happen.

The problem with this mentality is that holiness is not a sliding scale. God says that His glory, His perfection is the standard. He put it this way, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) In the original Greek text, the word “all” means…(are you ready for this?)…all. You. Me. All of us. We all fall short. Which means none of us are qualified to hold the strings of unforgiveness.

God goes on to say something else. Something wonderful. He says that He “showed His great love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) If anyone has a right to hold on to the strings of unforgiveness, it’s God. Yet He willingly chose to forgive us, even while we were still sinning.

Lewis Smedes defined it best. “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” Giving up my right. Letting go of the strings of bitterness. Trusting God for His perfect justice as we thank Him for not holding the strings of unforgiveness when we sinned against Him.

God forgives us with no strings attached.

He wants us to do the same.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

 – Ephesians 4:31-32