“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
Yesterday, we talked about the importance of “forgiving our debtors.” Inevitably, there are those who read/hear these words on forgiveness and are plunged into the depths of emotional turmoil.
Whenever the topic of forgiving others arises, there is always a common objection. It goes something like this…
“How could God possibly want me to forgive so-and so. What they did to me was reprehensible. I can never forgive them for what they have done. And if you knew what it is they did to me… you wouldn’t be so insensitive as to suggest that I have to forgive them. My hurt is too great. What they did to me is just too awful.”
This talk of forgiving others is not meant to be insensitive. Real people have real hurts. Horrible things have been done to innocent people. There is no excuse for those who have heaped abuse or harm upon the helpless and defenseless.
But here is the thing… God knows what has been done to each of us.
The real question is: if God knows all this, why is He so insistent on forgiving those who have done horrible things to us?
He really offers us no middle ground. Jesus was clear: our forgiveness is actually dependent upon our willingness to forgive (see Matthew 6:12-15!)
That seems like a stupid rule. Where is the sympathy for the hurting? Where is the justice for wrongs done? Why would God ask the victimized to overlook their pain?
The answer to all these objections is found at the cross…
There, Jesus took up every one of our hurts (including those terrible things done to us!). Jesus paid the price for every wrong, ever done (God poured out all punishment for all sin upon Him – so that justice was served)! And God does not ask us to overlook our pain, He asks us to look to the One Who willingly embraced and carried all of our pain.
What our unwillingness to forgive really says is that what Jesus did wasn’t enough. His suffering, carrying all our suffering, was insufficient. That it’s okay that Jesus paid the price for our sins – but we really don’t want to consider that He paid the price for all of the sins of those who hurt us.
What our unforgiveness really says is that there are some debts that are too big – even for Jesus. And that is a lie.
When we forgive others it is not to let them “off the hook” – we forgive because it releases us from their hold on us. Unforgiveness is like an invisible tether that permanently attaches us to them. When we forgive – when we really see that Jesus has carried that pain, and that wrong – the tether is severed. We are free!
Lastly, forgiveness is one of the deepest matters of the heart. Those who refuse to harbor any grudges or ill-feelings for others – are those whose hearts are prepared to receive the abundant favor, and Presence, of God.
Nothing deadens a heart more completely than unforgiveness.
And nothing enlivens a heart more effectively than forgiving others… just as God has forgiven us.
Prayer Focus: God, help me to see that Jesus carried all my sin AND all my hurt to the cross… I no longer need to hold onto what He has taken upon Himself.