I remember my three boys when they were little, getting into disagreements with friends and vowing to never play with them again. Of course, about a week later, they were enjoying each other’s company as if nothing had ever happened. What changes in adulthood to make us so inflexible?
I once met a young man who believed that if he gathering all the hurts and anger inside, the memories would make him stronger. From personal experience, holding on to bitterness only makes a person hard and bitter. If left to fester, the darkness inside will consume the warm and loving personality that once flourished.
There is a cure: forgiveness.
In the Bible, Jesus teaches a model prayer that includes the phrase “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” - Matthew 6:12
Whether you learned this as debts or trespasses, forgiving is difficult.
- Forgiving money that is owed.
- Forgiving some words that were spoken or unspoken.
- Forgiving physical pain.
- Forgiving horrific personal violation.
Don’t misunderstand this important fact: Forgiveness is NOT the same as forgetting. Forgiving is also NOT the same as allowing yourself to be walked on and hurt over and over again. Forgiving IS the beginning of healing.
I have heard many examples of parents making the difficult decision to forgive someone who took the life of their child. One example that stands out is that of Sam Riddall, who was struck and killed by a hit and run driver as he walked home from church.
Sam’s father, Mark Riddall, spoke outside courthouse after the accused was sentenced, “In four days we will celebrate Christmas for the first time without Sam,” he said. “It is going to be very hard for us indeed because we still miss him very much.”
“At Christmas we remember God sending Jesus into the world to bring peace,” he added. “It is this same God that is giving us the strength and helping us to forgive Hannah for the terrible thing she’s done to us by killing our son.
“It’s not easy, it’s not going to be easy, but with God’s help we know that it is possible.” - The Christian Post, Tue, Dec. 22 2009
For Godly people, forgiving is important. Why? Forgiveness is important to God. Many people have never read the Lord’s Prayer in the Bible. In Matthew 6, the prayer concludes in verse 13, but Jesus continues in verse 14, saying “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus also teaches in Luke 17: 3-4 "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him."
In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus went beyond this: Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Jesus continues in Matthew 18:23-35 with a parable about a man who begged the king to forgive a huge debt. The king had compassion on him and the man’s debt was forgiven. The man immediately went out and demanded payment from his debtors. The king found out about his lack of compassion and demanded he be thrown into prison until his original debt was paid.
Jesus concludes the parable with these condemning words, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Let me remind you of another son who was killed by a bunch of bullies. They gathered up a bunch of their friends and even their enemies and teamed up against him. They beat him up and tortured him. They paraded him through the streets, broken and bleeding. They finally ended up hanging him until he died, on hill just outside of town.
Just before his death on that hill far away, God’s only begotten son said “Father, forgive them…”
Jesus died for our trespasses and our un-payable debt of sin. It is by His example that we are to forgive one another.
Pastor Jay Merritt
Pastor Jay Merritt writes about God in every day observations.