“Remember me as you walk by, as you are now so once was I. As I am now, soon you must be, so walk on by but think of me.” This is the greeting that welcomes visitors to the Gibson Bayou Church and Cemetery in Crittenden County, Arkansas.
I have walked among the tombstones of Gibson Bayou Cemetery many times and I have had the humble honor of putting to rest a few folks in what is commonly referred to as the “High Ground.” It is high ground because it sits at a higher elevation than most of the surrounding land and through many floods it seldom flooded.
Walk through the cemetery grounds and the residents tell their stories. Their lives reflect our lives. Accidents, disease, great difficulties, murders, crimes of passion, trickery, resolve, those who overcame trials and tribulations and those who succumbed – they all help tell the story of humanity – our story.
We can know historical facts, events, and about people, but the most important piece to understanding someone else is knowing the person’s motives and intentions for saying or doing something. Can we really know what is in a person’s heart? The Bible says no, we cannot.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
Jesus, talking about forgiveness said, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2) Was Jesus saying we should not judge others?
Jesus was teaching to keep us from sinning and discarding people for their actions or words. The key phrase, I believe, it “… and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” How fair, equal, harsh, grudgingly, or freely we judge others will be how we are judged. We judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves. There is a difference in our judgment.
We judge ourselves based on our intentions and motivation. However, we judge others on their results or consequences. We ask rhetorical questions (speaking of others) “Why did she do that?” or “I don’t understand why he did that; I would never do such a thing.” We may not ever do what the other person did, but we each have the capability and given the right time, right circumstances we each do the very thing we protest about others.
Jesus was teaching that when we judge other’s we are to be very careful - how we judge others, (no grace, no mercy, no forgiveness, but with anger, vitriol, and harshness) is how we will be judged. This gives us reason to ask God to help us to forgive others and ourselves. We need to ask God to show us who we have not forgiven, why have not we forgiven and then lead us to forgive.
I need grace, mercy, and forgiveness in my life so I do give grace, mercy, and forgiveness to others. Forgiveness provides more benefits to the one forgiving than the one being forgiven.
Forgiving does not wipe the slate clean. Forgiving is not approving of what a person did. Forgiveness does not magically do away with the damage left behind, the anger and the consequences others must endure. It does not bring back someone from death – it does not restore what was lost but what it does is free the one held captive by unforgiveness and to the one who wronged us.
When we offer forgiveness to others (Even if they do not ask for forgiveness) we are more like Jesus and this glorifies and honors Him and this changes and strengthens us.
What will you receive when you forgive others? Freedom. Freedom from anger, worry, self-righteousness, better physical health and a mind set free to pursue your life and not someone else’s life. More importantly, when we forgive others, we become more like Jesus Christ.