When You Pray...Forgive


Brian and Kathy Emmet
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. If you do not … your Father will not” (Matthew 6:14).
The Lord’s Prayer has been treasured and prayed by Christians for centuries.  It is short and deep, simple yet profound.   Less than a hundred words.
And the only part of this “pattern prayer” that Jesus comments on?  Forgiveness.  His comment is not long, but it is penetrating.  When it comes to forgiveness, Jesus says, God will treat us the way we treat others.
Forgiveness does not mean “It was nothing.”  Forgiveness is not about forgetting.  Forgiveness does not require you to continue to be bullied, brutalized or abused.  Forgiveness is a journey, often a long one, especially if the sin done against you did deep damage. 
It costs you something to humble yourself and ask forgiveness, and to do whatever work of restitution may be required.  But it costs you even more to forgive – to remember the hurt and the damage done to you and still to release the “right” to retaliate, to relinquish the desire to serve as judge, jury and executioner of the one who has so harmed you.  There is a cost in refusing to be forever defined by the wrong that’s been done to you.
There is so much more that needs to be said about forgiveness, far more than can fit in a brief daily devotional. Still, Jesus’ bottom line here?  “If you forgive … God will forgive you … If you do not, God will not.”
Because God is petty, vindictive, endlessly punitive?  Absolutely not!  The Jesus who is speaking to us is the Jesus who will go to the cross.  He will go there because of us … with us … as us … for us.
We are to forgive because this is exactly how God treats us all in Christ.  He bears the ultimate cost, pays the ultimate price, of all of our sins against God and against each other.  God, who would be completely just in retaliating, does not.  God, who would be completely in the right to demand “payment” from us pays the price instead. 
So when you pray, expect that you will need to confront both the evil that has been done to you, and the evil you have done to others.  If you have been sinned against, forgive, not as the only thing that needs doing for your life to be made somewhat whole and right again, but as the essential thing that only you can do.  It is the only gift you can give that offers any hope of a better future for both you and the one who has so wronged you.  Every gift carries a cost.
Easy to ask, so hard to do: who needs your forgiveness?  And whose forgiveness do you need to seek?


We're not disagreeing, Jan: it's not either justice or compassion, it's both/and. That you are working on compassion suggests that you have come to terms, personally, with the "justice" issues. That's no easy matter and illustrates again the "cost" to victims of forgiving their perpetrators ... because there is actually no "payment" that could ever be enough for the evil done to you.
I would like to talk more with you on this topic and the ramifications of forgiveness. My central point is that when I reach a sense of compassion for the soul of the perpetrator I can rise above the hurt and resentment to forgive and ask God to forgive. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." I have been able to forgive my father for molesting me by focusing on his damaged soul, not his behavior. I turn to God for healing the consequences. You have inspired me to do a study of the meaning and implications of forgiveness. Thanks for the discussion!
It is hard to forgive myself. I am thankful that God got my attention and helped me to find Him. I did not know God or believe when I was a child or young adult. There was lots of pain and I have a hard time trusting Him. That must hurt Him. Forgiving those who hurt me has been hard but I need to fo that completely.
Not disagreeing! Forgiveness works differently if I'm a perpetrator as opposed to a victim. For example, a woman who has suffered domestic violence does not, as the first thing she hears, need to be told "your sins are forgiven!" Or that her perpetrator's sins are forgiven. Yes, by all means, to compassion! I think it looks and operates differently depending on where we're sitting. So I'm not disagreeing or challenging you, just trying to encourage ongoing thought and conversation about a difficult topic!
Granted, but God did feel compassion for us in our sinful state so He made a way through the cross for our forgiveness and salvation. Thus I search to provide compassion and forgiveness to others.
Yes, I believe that's included, along with God's opposition to sin and the death it brings.
Forgiveness is one of the greatest blessings we experience. It releases our spirit from bondage and causes us to emulate God, thus drawing us closer to Him. When I pray for forgiveness I do not focus on the miserable actions this person has done but on his soul, formed by God to partake of the Kingdom. I weep for the damaged soul and pray for healing. I feel compassion for the broken person and isn't that God's position towards us?

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