On Making Allowances
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak—Mat_26:41
There are times when it is very hard to make allowances for other people. To forgive them seems a counsel of perfection. Even if we do forgive we are haunted by a lingering resentment. Gusts of bitterness invade the soul when we remember how deeply we were wronged. To trust again when we have been deceived, with the simple and sweet trust of long ago, seems a victory beyond our powers. Love may abide through bitterest disappointment, for love is strong as death. But the love which has been hideously wronged is seldom quiet as a resting place. Flashes of suspicion visit it; harsh thoughts come surging to the surface; memories, sharp and anguished, break their blighting way into the soul. To make allowance when someone dear has failed us, to forget judgment in a great compassion, to go on trusting hopefully, after the shock of discovered infidelity, that, which falls to the lot of many people, though they very seldom speak about it, is one of the hardest tasks in human life.
Jesus Substitutes Mercy for Resentment
Now it was such a task that met our Saviour in the Garden of Gethsemane. The hearts on whose fidelity He counted in one blinding flash were found to be unfaithful. Who could have wondered if our blessed Lord had turned from these three men in stern revulsion? Who could have wondered if His instant thought had been that He never could trust them any more? In swift and righteous condemnation might He not have judged them unworthy of His love, and so barred them from His heart forever? That is the first swift impulse, let me say, of every woman who has been deeply wronged. She says (little knowing what she says) I may forgive, but I never can forget. And the beautiful thing is that our Master, pierced to the quick by dear ones’ infidelity, rose to a loftier attitude than that. Judgment was submerged in pity. Compassion took the place of condemnation. The love that had been so terribly wronged wove the garment of mercy round the sinners. And so doing it saved their souls alive and led them onward to that brighter morrow, when infidelities were all to be redeemed.
It Would Have Been Human to Be Done with Them, But It Was Heavenly to Continue Trusting Them
To understand that magnificence of attitude ponder a moment on the sleep of these disciples. It was not a venial fault of drowsiness; it was a heinous sin of infidelity. It is always a very grave offence if a sentry be found sleeping at his post. Often the penalty for that is death. And these men were not only there in comradeship; they were sentries at the post of duty; they were there to watch as well as to keep awake. I shall not say that had they watched they might have saved the Lord, for it was not the will of God that He be saved. But would not Jesus crave to be forewarned that He might have a last quiet moment with His Father. And He never got it—the armed rabble broke on Him, suddenly, with shouting and with torches, because these sentries were sleeping at their posts. A disloyal soldier is like a disloyal friend—it is supremely difficult to make allowance for him. The heart that has been wronged by infidelity haunts the margins of despairing bitterness. Yet Jesus, towards His disloyal soldiers, who were also His weak disciples, maintained a pitying love that was redemptive. It would have been easy to have done with them. It was very hard to trust them still. To condemn them would have been entirely natural. To keep them still within His heart was heavenly. So our Saviour points the better way for all who find their Garden of Gethsemane in the disloyalties of someone who is dear.
Their Lack of Vigilance Was a Sign of lngratitude
And then, mingling with disloyalty, think of the ingratitude involved. “What, could ye not watch with Me?” For a moment put the accent upon Me. Have not I been the best of friends to you? Have not I toiled for you and prayed for you? Have not I watched many an hour for you? Have not I lavished the riches of My love on you? All that they owed to Him in love and sacrifice, and in the uplift of unrecorded intimacies, was forgotten in that disloyalty of sleep. That is what makes infidelity so bitter. At the heart of it lies rank ingratitude. All the patient ministries of years are forgotten because the flesh is weak. And no one could have blamed our blessed Lord if, in the sudden flaming of disgust, He had torn these disciples from His breast.
He Remembered It Was Past Midnight
But He did not do that, however terrible the provocation. The others might forget, but He remembered.He remembered it was long past midnight; He remembered the awful strain of the past days; He remembered the sorrow that consumed them, and their burden of unintelligible mystery. And the condemning wrath that might have ruined them was swallowed up in an infinite compassion—the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Never was there kindlier allowance. It was the consummate handling of heaven. It issued not in tragedy, but in the richer loyalties of resurrection days. So may like grace be given to all in perplexity through infidelites, that they may find a budding morrow in midnight.