Years ago my family and my Uncle’s family took a cross country vacation together. We drove out to Yellowstone together making stops along the way, it was the longest vacation I ever went on, lasting about a month. Along the way every time we passed a Bob Evans restaurant my Uncle would comment about how he would never eat at one of “those” again. Apparently shortly before the trip he had been to one and received poor service and decided he would never go back. The funny thing is over twenty years later I have still never been back to a Bob Evans either.
(I don’t know if I can forgive Denny’s for discontinuing the MEAT LOVERS SKILLET)
The grudge held against the restaurant chain is something that stuck with me, though I have never really stopped to think about it before. Who knows maybe I’d really like it, and I’m sure at some point in the last twenty years it would have been convenient to have eaten at one. On top of that I am all but positive that whoever was responsible for the poor service my Uncle received is no longer working at a Bob Evans.
(Because they work here now)
The truth is I suppose grudges stick with us, they are hard to shake. They can stick with us and affect us in ways big or small and sometimes we don’t even realize it. What made me think of this after all these years was reading a short passage from Leviticus.
10 And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.
What this passage is declaring is a year of Jubilee. A celebration every fifty years in which all debts are forgiven and all slaves are set free. It was a major celebration in Israel and one of the prime ways in which people lived out God’s mercy. You can imagine how liberating it would have been for the debtor and the slave. We of course have our own form of jubilee. Jesus set us free from the debt of sin, from the slavery to sin. What at one time was a once in fifty year celebration has become our new reality.
At the same time I think this idea of forgiving debts is one which we ought to revisit. My relationship with Bob Evans is one of debt. My family came to believe we were owed better service and that debt has been carefully accounted for years. In the end that grudge that debt is something that has helped no one and only served to inconvenience and annoy. Think of the debts you owe and the debts that are owed you, not the financial one but the ones of broken relationship. Do those debts help or are they just a source of annoyance, inconvenience and frustration. Sure it is important to remember those people who hurt you and those people who create an unsafe situation and to make sure you aren’t hurt or unsafe again, but most debts are different. Most debts only serve to bind us to our anger, hurt and pain, most debts would be better off forgiven.
Our debts of broken relationship only serve to keep us away from our friends, our family or our Church. We are worried about what we owe or are owed, so worried that we miss what could be. How many people are missing from our lives and our pews because of some grudge which simply doesn’t matter anymore? I’m going to declare a year of Jubilee for myself, I’m going to forgive old grudges, I hope you will join me and declare a year of jubilee for yourself as well. I for one am going to begin by going out to dinner, if you need me I’ll be at Bob Evans.
(How could I not like a food chain that looks like a barn and was started by a man in a cowboy hat!)