I read this passage during my morning Bible study yesterday, and it got me to thinking.
(Jesus’ words): For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sin. ~ Matthew 6:14-15
Boom! That first part sounds great. But Jesus tells us that we face a consequence if we withhold forgiveness and it’s a big one: we are not forgiven by Him. Have you ever considered that?
I wonder if we sometimes think that withholding forgiveness somehow punishes the person who wronged us. To the contrary, I have learned that withheld forgiveness unnecessarily places a burden upon me that I simply do not need. Withheld forgiveness makes me stew over things that happened in the past, sometimes long ago. Withholding forgiveness is like fastening shackles around my own ankles and then trying to run this marathon we call life. Withheld forgiveness is a source of stress, and who needs more stress?
Lance Morrow, author and writer for Time magazine said this about forgiveness:
“Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control… to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.” (Lance Morrow – The Chief: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons)
I couldn’t agree more.
As a Christian, I am called to be Jesus to a world that largely does not know Him. This means that I am to strive to live a life that looks as much like Jesus as I possibly can. God will honor that, even when I stumble and fall. Among many things, Jesus is the Master of forgiveness. As he hung on the cross for our sins, enduring great pain and anguish as the crowd mocked Him, Jesus said,
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Even in His great pain and anguish, even as he suffered a punishment He didn’t deserve, even as He was mocked by the very creation He came to save, and even though they didn’t ask for it, Jesus offered forgiveness. This, my friends, is God’s grace at work!
What about you? Do you have somebody you need to forgive? Are you carrying that unnecessary burden? Are you wearing the shackles of bitterness and resentment? It’s time to free yourself. It’s time to be Jesus to your world. Unsolicited forgiveness. Try it. You will be freed and God will honor your action.
Soli Deo Gloria!