Then we reached 2 Samuel 11. As I went through the narrative in terms I thought they could understand—David stealing both a man's wife and then his life—they became quieter and quieter. Their little blond heads dipped until their chins nearly touched their chests as they wrestled with the concept of a good guy who acted like a bad guy.
"Uh-oh," I thought. "Have I ruined everything?"
As it turns out, I hadn't. We were able to talk about good people making bad mistakes and how God always forgives and takes us back as long as we are truly sorry, willing to say, "I was wrong," and try our best not to sin again. Their spirits lifted. After all, they got in trouble now and again too, didn't they? Here was proof that they were still loved. David was once again a Bible hero.
The story of David—of Judah and Peter, too—is an inspiration and a warning to every Christian. No matter how well you have done for how long, you can still fall, but no matter how far you fall, God will take you back. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1John 1:7) We all hunger for that forgiveness and revel in its comfort.
Yet I have seen too many adults who, when they realize their heroes are not perfect, refuse to give that same forgiveness.
All children grow up thinking Mommy and Daddy are Superheroes. Sometime around middle school the luster begins to fade. By high school, parents are so often "wrong," in their eyes at least, that they can barely be tolerated.
And the truth is, parents are ordinary people. They do make mistakes, sometimes big ones. They have annoying habits and less than stellar character traits--just like every other human on the planet. The larger problem is they have children, sometimes grown children, who won't accept anything less than perfection.
When God tells us to forgive one another (Col 3:13 among a host of others), that goes for parents too, and any other person we have expected perfection from—mentors, teachers, preachers, elders, etc. We have no right to sit in judgment over their apologies, deciding whether or not they are sincere based upon nothing but our own arrogant expectations. We certainly have no right to ruin a relationship they might have with someone else. I have seen grandparents have no opportunity for a relationship with their grandchildren because their unforgiving children hold on to grudges from the past. Meanwhile, those same unforgiving children are making their own mistakes as parents because no parent does it all right—no, not even them, no matter what they might think otherwise. I have seen the same things happen to elders and preachers by an unforgiving congregant who spreads his ill will everywhere at every opportunity. Ruining another's perspective somehow validates his own.
Forgiveness isn't just for strangers or people we aren't particularly close to. The mistakes of a parent, mentor, or teacher may be more difficult to bear, but an unforgiving child or student or spiritual dependent is devastating to everyone.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:31-32)