My wife was telling me about her conversation with a woman in our church. She said, “Mrs. ________ really is a sweet person, I think we’ve just always viewed her in light of that one incident.”
She’s right. We had a very unpleasant experience with this woman several years ago. I can objectively say that this woman was wrong; she mistreated us and we did nothing to her that warranted her treatment of us. But she also sought forgiveness and has treated us respectfully ever since. She even treated me like I was her pastor. (My fellow pastors will know what I mean by that. There’s a difference between someone treating you like you are the pastor and someone treating you as if you are their pastor.)
I said that I had forgiven but I’ve always believed that you haven’t forgiven if you are still letting the bad incident affect your relationship. I had only in the last couple years been able to relate to her in a way that didn’t account for that bad experience and her offensive and hurtful behavior.
This is one of the hardest things about ministry: to remember that you are not just a person, you represent Christ. I am just like everyone else on the planet in that I don’t like to be mistreated or see the ones I love mistreated. But I also am supposed to see people as God sees them: as sinners in need of God’s grace. And only that grace can make them like Christ.