…when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:17-19
In the circles that I run, people have been talking a lot lately about offense and forgiveness. Since it’s the Lenten season, I thought it might be a good time to blog about it. I have already written about this topic with another group of readers this morning, so for some of them, this may be old news. It’s certainly about an old discipline, and one for which I hope you, too, have interest.
Unforgiveness is a big problem in the world today. It’s a bigger problem for the Church. It’s a problem for humans who have tender hearts, and its a problem for humans who have no heart at all–or none we can see. Unforgiveness keeps us from having long lasting and fruitful relationships with our fellows, and can be used in a self-destructive way to sabotage our own success. It closes our ears to criticism that might be valid and appropriate and shuts heaven’s door in some respects. We are reminded in The Word that our forgiveness is predicated on our forgiving others. Ouch! That means that we close the door on our own blessings when we refuse to forgive them. What a high and sad price to pay.
When others hurt us, it can be devastating. We often have two reactions: Either we run away and hide, in order to isolate ourselves from further attack; or we retaliate. “Hurt me once, shame on you–Hurt me twice, shame on me,” we hear said, even from the lips of the redeemed. I know, I know, some people really are monsters. What else can you call rapists, child molesters, drug dealers and murderers? It takes Divine strength to forgive these sorts. Most of us will never be asked to go there, but we need to realize that we are just as responsible for forgiving the dirty look, nasty comment and hurtful gossip that is perpetrated against us as we are those bigger crimes to humanity. Refusing to forgive an act of larceny can get you in the same hot water as refusing to forgive genocide. It’s all sin, and it’s all a part of the human experience.
Today, is you know someone who has wronged you, whom you have yet to forgive, reconsider your position. It’s the Lenten season, a time for thinking seriously about what our Father asks of each of us. If Jesus was willing to go to Calvary’s cross to forgive, we can forgive our neighbor for what he or she has done to us. We can, God being our helper.
Forgiving someone does not mean that their consequences will go away (is it wrong for us to be thankful for at least that?), but it does begin the process of removing our desire to grind them into the dirt. We need to stay out of the business of revenge. Besides, God is better at this stuff than we could ever be–wayyyy better! Let Him lead.
Give God the glory in your pain, and he will give you all His love. Forgive others, and He will forgive you. Pretty good trade off, if you ask me. To Him be all praise!