Forgiveness is hard!!
I have been praying a great deal lately about forgiveness. Not only for myself to be forgiven, but for me to able to forgive others. Most Christians, at one point or another, learn the Lord’s Prayer or “Our Father”. In Matthew 6: 5-15, Jesus instructs his disciples how to pray – specifically in versus 9-13:
9 Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,[a]
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,[b]
but rescue us from the evil one.[c]
More importantly, in versus 14 & 15 Jesus tells us: 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. This, to me, is one of the most important teachings of Jesus.
As Christians, we are often guilty of non-forgiveness. We want revenge, we want justice, we want payback, and so many other personal or earthly ways of parity; forgiveness never even cross’s our mind. In 1 John 2: 1-12, John tell us, God’s children, that our sins are forgiven because God gave his Son Jesus as a sacrifice, not just specifically for us as Christians, but for the whole world. With that in mind, if God forgives, do we dare to believe or think, we are above or better than God when we don’t forgive?
Speaking personally, I don’t think anyone has ever wronged me (or can wrong me), more than I have wronged God. To God, ALL sins are equal. Only man, puts different value to sins or wrongs. That means God has shown ME more grace and mercy, than I will ever have to show anyone else. By not forgiving or extending grace and mercy to others, I am putting myself and my desires above God. Do I really want to be that arrogant? Do you?
The top four antonyms for forgiveness are, blame, cruelty, meanness, and mercilessness. If we are not forgiving, than by definition we are doing the opposite. Holding or placing blame, cruelty, meanness and mercilessness, will all lead to bitterness. A bitter life is a sinful life. One definition of the word “bitter” is: Characterized by intense antagonism or hostility – bitter hatred. This is scary but important. In Hebrews 12: 1-17, the apostle Paul writes about how through discipline, God is treating us as if we were His own children, because we are. We have earthly parents, but God is our Eternal Heavenly Father. Paul even explains and understands that we don’t like or enjoy discipline, but afterward, we will benefit and bask in the Love that is Christ. In Hebrews 12, verse 15, Paul tells us: Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. If as Christians we are not forgiving unconditionally, like our Heavenly Father, than we are “…corrupting many”. Is this the legacy we want to leave on this earth?
I know we all have pain and resentment about someone or something in our lives. We are human, we are sinners. We all fail and fall, but that is no excuse. We have to trust that our relationship with God is so much bigger than any relationship we have here on earth. We as Christians, are called to know that if God forgives us, we have to forgive others. However, if we hold on to that resentment and pain, that bitterness and cruelty, and don’t let it go; if we don’t forgive, than God won’t forgive us. These are not my interpretations or words. These are the words of Jesus. They are recorded and written for us to benefit and learn from in Matthew 6: 14-15. How can we walk around and call ourselves Christians if we are harboring ill feelings towards others? We can’t, and it is laid out for us:
14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
None of us are perfect, and we never will be. As Christians however, we are held to a higher standard. A standard we should be proud of. A standard that identifies us as a child of God. I’m not saying it is easy, forgiveness is hard. However, if God can forgive our sins, who are we to not forgive others?