This is Easter Week. It started with Jesus triumphal entry and will end with Jesus dying an agonizing death on the cross, only to say, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Over the weekend a situation happened that is causing me to struggle with this concept that is as difficult to follow as all the teachings of Jesus can be. It’s forgiveness.
One would think after being a Christian as long as I have, this teaching would be something that would be automatic in my life; but it’s not. I struggle with the pain of rejection and anger when we’ve extended love and acceptance.
For one thing, memory can be a double edged sword. On the one hand, we remember good times we’ve had with loved ones and it brings us joy. On the other hand, we remember being hurt by our loved ones and it causes much angst. We struggle with forgiving and harbor our hurts. And then, just when we think we’ve forgiven them, something causes us to remember that hurt and we have to forgive them all over again.
Matthew 6:9-15 is one of the passages in where Jesus teaches about forgiveness. He was asked by his disciples how to pray and he taught them the prayer they should pray, which includes this line, “… and forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us….” Then he adds, but if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Isn’t it interesting that of all the things he said in his teaching on praying, he felt he needed to add something to the concept of forgiving those who sin against us?
Why do you suppose this is?
Forgiving those who have sinned against us is one of the most difficult concepts in the Bible. Isn’t it interesting that Don Henley, certainly not a Christian (unless something has changed) wrote, “I think it’s about forgiveness/forgiveness/even if/even if/you don’t love me anymore”?
Later, Jesus told the parable of the Unforgiving Servant. A great king had pity on a servant who a debt he could not pay. At first the king was going to have him and his family sold as slaves to pay the debt. The servant begged him, the king had pity and he forgave the servant his debt and released him. Instead of showing gratitude to others for the forgiveness the king extended to him, however, the servant went and found someone who owed him money and demanded he pay. When his fellow servant begged for more time, the forgiven servant was unrelenting. Then the king found out and was angry, and had the servant he forgave thrown into prison. Then Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2018:21-35%20&version=NIV
So we have Jesus sacrifice as our redemption. Nothing we do can save us; and yet, Jesus tells us that unless we forgive our brothers and sisters, the Father will not forgive us.
How frightening! What shall we say to this?
Mark 11:22-26 If it’s not difficult enough to hear it the first time, Jesus repeats himself, “if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Luke 6:37 Did Jesus add any qualifiers to forgiving people? “Forgive, if…”? “Forgive, only when…”? Luke 17:3-4
Here Jesus tells us that if the person asks, we must forgive. Before, in the other verses, nothing is mentioned about the other asking for forgiveness. What does this mean?
John 20:23 What??!!?? Does this mean neither of us is forgiven?
God forgives us all because of Jesus; but we must accept that forgiveness or we are lost. Jesus told us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. That extends to forgiveness. What does being forgiving as our heavenly Father is forgiving look like for us?
In Eccles 3:1-9 verse 5 talks about embracing and refraining from embracing and verse 7 talks about speaking and keeping silent. Can this be part of forgiving?
In another part of the Gospels, Jesus told us that he was sending us as sheep among wolves, and we are to be wary as serpents and innocent as doves. Does this have any bearing on forgiving others? Can a person forgive another, but remove association from that other?
How true the words Rich Mullins wrote in the song Hard, "It's hard to bless when others curse you"
I think that he is telling me that every time I feel the urge to dig up the past, I need to forgive all over again, and not feel guilty for the need to (unless I am disobedient). Thank the Lord for his provisions!
As I wrote at the beginning of this blog, an incident happened this weekend that is causing me to struggle with this concept again. Originally, I’d written this piece for a Sunday School class. Now I am coming back to this. Will I ever find being forgiving easy? I don’t think so; but I also know that I must forgive. Oh what a hideous realization to come to the end of a life serving the Lord, while harboring unforgiveness, only to find that because I would not forgive, the Lord could not forgive me. And so it seems I have more questions than answers in this blog.
Last week I wrote about suffering for Jesus' sake. Remembering that this morning, I asked the Lord if this is what it means to suffer for Jesus. After all, I've not been beaten, I've not been crucified, I've not been stoned and left for dead like Paul. After talking to the Lord about suffering for him, I went to Bible Gateway to see what their daily verse was for today. It was Philippians 1:29 "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him," Forgiveness. How can a human forgive? A human can't by himself. Lord, please help me forgive him as you have forgiven me. In Jesus Name, amen."