"Mamma's boiling mad," my three-year-old grandson, Ian, told me when I met him, his one-year-old brother, Alec, and their mother, Beth, at the park recently. When Ian told me the reasonhe'd pushed Alec into the mudI understood why my daughter, whom I'd seen "boiling mad" many times as she was growing up, was angry. Later that night before little Ian went to bed, he pulled me aside and said, "I'm going to start being nice to Alec. But mostly I don't want to."
I understand that! There are times I don't want to "play nice," eithersuch as the time I pulled into a crowded parking lot in search of an empty spot. When I finally followed a woman to her car and waited patiently for her to vacate her space, a man in a truck stole it out of the blue. I didn't feel very gracious; instead, I had a number of things I wanted to say to him!
I'm a therapist, and I remember a session in which a young wife poured out her heart. She'd thought her familycomplete with three kidswas solid; she was totally stunned when her husband told her he was leaving her for another woman. She didn't even have to say the words for me to know she didn't want to be gracious to this man, either.
We all struggle with these feelings at some point, because we've all been on the receiving end of unjust, hurtful behavior. In those moments, we ask the tough question: Do we have to forgive all actions?
God knew we'd question this because there are count less examples in the Bible of him forgiving people who betrayed him. One of the most startling examples of this is the Old Testament prophet Hosea, who married Gomer, a prostitute, at God's command. Though Gomer wandered back into her unrighteous ways, Hosea sought her out, paid off her pimp, brought her home, and loved her. God uses Hosea's love as an illustration of the way he feels for us, his disobedient children.1