(I shot this photo about 2 years ago)
No really, I did just that. I used Facebook this week to seek forgiveness of someone I would never have a way of finding, short of hiring a private investigator. Facebook can be a good thing.
First, here is the story. In much of my childhood, I grew up in a very small town in southern California. The town is called New Cuyama, and it is in the hills and plains, about 30 minutes from Santa Maria, which is more toward the coast. Just to clarify how small the town is, it is currently just over 500. Back in the 70’s when I was growing up there, it was certainly smaller. It was a great place to grow up, and I have fond memories of it. To get to the point, while I was in grades K-2 in New Cuyama, there was a boy who was a bit different. Honestly, I don’t even recall what was so different about him. But he was not “like us” other kids. For the sake of his privacy, I will call him Robert.
Robert attracted a lot of teasing and belittling. I recall being on the school bus one day, and several of us boys really razzing him badly. I don’t recall details, but I recall us being very mean to him. This was unlike me, because I was a pretty nice kid usually. I seemed to have fallen into the trap of following others, no matter what they do. I was raised Christian, but I had my bad moments for sure. You don’t have to teach a child to misbehave. The child will do it naturally. No lessons needed in sin. Some try to say we are born “basically good”. The Bible tells us otherwise. But I digress.
I have always remembered teasing Robert, especially on the school bus that day. I have always felt bad about it, and regretted it. This week, I decided to look him up on Facebook. I found him right away, still living in New Cuyama too. I was thrilled to find him, but even more thrilled to see that he follows the Lord. I immediately felt a need to write to him and ask forgiveness. He may not even remember me, but I promise he remembers all the teasing he got while growing up. It was dreadful. I am remorseful that I ever took part in that. I myself was the victim of a lot of teasing while in school. I can relate to being on the receiving end of insults and teasing.
So, I wrote Robert a kind Facebook private message, asking forgiveness, and also encouraging him in the Lord. I can see that he is not on FB that often, so I may never know if he gets the message or not. I truly do hope he gets it. I am not satisfied that I “did my deed” in apologizing. It is far deeper than that. I truly hope that he reads the message and that it releases some of the pain that he likely still feels. And yes, I do hope for forgiveness, more for his sake than mine.
Matthew 6:15 says “but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”. Forgiveness is a serious matter. The above scripture is pretty strong. Jesus actually said that. Most preachers do not preach that scripture, or even the idea of it. Although I have now brought up the flip side of the forgiveness issue, speaking of forgiving rather than asking forgiveness, it stands to make a point that forgiveness is a serious matter. According to Jesus, we cannot be forgiven our sins unless we forgive others first. Let us all keep forgiveness at easy reach. Do you need to forgive? Do you need to ask forgiveness of someone? Oh the power of forgiveness!
I would encourage you, if you are a Facebook user, to look at some possibilities of seeking out a person or two, or more, and ask forgiveness. I’m speaking of people who are distant and disconnected from you. I’m not speaking of your close friends or pastor or such. We can ask them forgiveness face to face, or at least on the phone. Facebook is a great way to reconnect with someone who you cannot otherwise find or contact. Maybe an old girlfriend or boyfriend who you did wrong. Maybe a classmate like mine. Maybe an old workmate. This is powerful stuff! Forgive. Be forgiven.
Here’s another scripture. Mark 11:25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will forgive you your trespasses.”
I plan to do some more searching of my heart and mind, and see if there are more people I can ask forgiveness of. Wisdom must be used of course, as we do not want to stir up things that have long been put to rest. Sometimes I think we simply have to hope and pray that someone has forgiven us.
If you are not on Facebook at this point in your life, you are probably better off! It can become an addiction for many. Many Christians are spending vastly more time on FB than in their Bible or in prayer with the Lord. Lord help us all to keep You first in our hearts, minds, and time scheduling.
Let’s forgive….and be forgiven.