When You Pray...Forgive7
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?