In addition to teaching us to bear one another’s burdens, living in community makes it necessary to learn the art of forgiveness. People harm each other – that is a reality of human existence. Sometimes it is slight, such as not showing us the respect we deserve. Sometimes it is a deeper hurt, such as unfaithfulness or intentional malice. Each of us has been harmed by others in some way, because all of us are flawed and broken and sinful.
Jesus, our master teacher, once said: ‘And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.’ (Mark 11:25) What is Jesus telling us? He wants us to know that if we desire forgiveness, we must enter into the sphere of God’s mercy. We cannot say, “I accept God’s forgiveness for my sins, but I refuse to forgive others.” This is actually impossible, not just theologically but psychologically.
If we truly know that we have been completely forgiven, then we will naturally forgive those who have harmed us in some way. It may take time –it often does – and it may involve the help of another, particularly a good counsellor or therapist who listens, understands and can guide us.
When we find ourselves struggling to forgive someone, we should not grit our teeth and merely try harder to forgive them. Instead, we should dwell on the fundamental reality that we ourselves are people who need forgiveness, and then set our minds on the reality that God, in Christ, has forgiven us completely.
Paul tells the Colossians: ‘Forgive, as the Lord forgave you.’ We can only forgive when we know the presence of Jesus standing with us, the One who is the model but also the means of forgiveness.
God has forgiven me. I live in an atmosphere of grace. Therefore, I can – by his grace – forgive those who harm me. Forgiveness is not about justice; it is about healing.
Gracious Abba, thank you for forgiving me for all of my sins. I have sinned against you far more than others have sinned against me. You are my model, and you are my means for forgiving others. By your grace, help me to forgive as you have forgiven me. Amen.
Have you been hurt by someone, and found it difficult to forgive them? Explain.