Monday, July 6, 2015

Do I Have to Forgive?

Humans hurt each other.  That is a fact of life.  We say hurtful things or we write them or we cause distress for each other as we live our lives together.  We hurt each other on different levels.  The hurt may cause us emotional scares for years to come, wounds that do not easily mend.  So, if we truly are striving to be Christians, to be followers of the one who was hurt by humans even to the point of death, we are commanded to forgive one another.

The chief teaching of Jesus regarding forgiveness, although there are many places where he says the same thing, is in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.  After he taught his followers the prayer that we call The Lord's Prayer, he expanded on it by saying, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6: 14-15).  So, Jesus connected our own forgiveness for the wrong we have done with the forgiveness we must offer others.  We must forgive if we want God to forgive us.

Jesus taught about forgiveness in the Parable of the Prodigal Son when he told the story of the younger son who took all his inheritance and spent it in wicked living.  He showed how merciful God is toward us in the person of the Father who not only forgave this son for his irresponsibility but waiting on the road eagerly looking for the prodigal to come home and ran to meet him to hug him and put a new clean robe on him.  The wandering son was not worthy of the Father's forgiveness but that is exactly why the Father gave it to him.  He represents God and God's merciful grace toward us all.

Forgiveness is not always easy to achieve.  Sometimes when we have been hurt we want revenge or judgment upon the one who hurt us.  It often takes time before we can forgive another who has wounded us.  That does not permit us not to forgive though, even if it is hard or the memory of the hurt stays in our brains.  We still must forgive if we want to be forgiven.

Peter once asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive.  He thought he was being generous by saying he could forgive 7 times for an action against him.  Jesus adjusted the numbers for Peter though and said he had to forgive 7 times 70 or 490 times.  That number represents grace because forgiveness is supposed to endure forever.  We have to forgive, regardless of how many times we have been hurt or the depth of the woundedness.....if we want God to forgive us of our own sins.

Humans hurt each other.  That is a fact.  Each day we read it in the newspaper or hear about it on television.  Someone murdered another person or stole from them or committed a heinous act against society.  Even in the face of terrible injustice, forgiveness is not a is a necessity...for our own sakes...and our own forgiveness.

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