God Loves Humans
If forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces for redemption in the Christian faith, unforgiveness is one of the most powerful forces for destruction. Unforgiveness hardens the heart. It magnifies a perceived offense to the point where we can no longer appreciate a person’s value because all we see is how they have grieved us. No wonder the petition about forgiveness – “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” – sits at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer.
In the gospels, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). In this question, Peter thinks he is being generous. The rabbis of Jesus’ day taught that a person was obliged to forgive three times; Peter raises it to seven. “No,” Jesus answers, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
The astounding generosity of such forgiveness can only come in response to the extravagant mercy and compassion of God.
Here’s the Good News: Jesus came for sinners. He was born, lived and died, and was raised again for people like you and me. When he lived among us, he preferred the company of sinful humans to that of those righteous souls who believed they were pure and above reproach. He befriended tax collectors and prostitutes. He made it clear that he had come not for the righteous, but for sinners. He insisted that his purpose was not to condemn, but to save. Even now, he unveils our hypocrisies not to shame us, but to help us to see how much we need him, how much we need his divine life flowing through us, transforming and changing us so that our actions may become true expressions of who we really are, so that we can live authentically as God’s children in the world.
If we consider our sinfulness; if we are aware of our countless transgressions against God and against our neighbors in thought, word and deed; if we realize our need for forgiveness and mercy; then we will begin to appreciate what has been done for us.
Forgiven people should not be unforgiving towards others. “Be kind to one another,” Saint Paul urges the Christians at Ephesus, “tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Those who have been forgiven much ought to love much, and that love should include forgiving others with the same generosity with which we have been forgiven.
Living in a fallen world means that it is inevitable that we will be sinned against. Christian faith does not diminish the pain or damage that someone’s sin against us has inflicted. We need God’s help to work through our anger and bitterness to arrive at the place where forgiveness is possible. But we need to do this work – it is not an option – because without it, we will be imprisoned by our own unforgiveness.
Sometimes forgiveness can only come over time. Be patient with yourself but be equally determined to stay on the path towards forgiveness, even if it is an uphill climb. Our hearts harden when we harbor unforgiveness. Forgive, then, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
At this time, I am trying to forgive someone who has hurt me repeatedly. I have had to be in communication with her for 25 years. Now the person who linked us is gone but there is one more big event where we will meet. I have tried everything to change my heart from fear to love through prayer through the years. It has never held.
What is the “work” ( you refer to) to make us able to forgive?
Amen,Amen,Amen! Wow. Came to this by way of an email SSJE Lent 2023 prompt . Really spoke volumes to me. As did this line….
“But we need to do this work – it is not an option – because without it, we will be imprisoned by our own unforgiveness.”
Its not an option?! uhoh.
Bless you all for another meaningful direction.
Is there any way that the Lenten Lord’s Prayer use of ‘sin’ can be made permanent? To most people, trespasses means going on to someone else’s property, while debt means owing money! Isn’t it time, or beyond time, to
call transgressions by their rightful name? A sin is a sin!
AMEN, Jane! And “Save us from the time of trial” instead of “Lead us not into temptation”. I don’t require God’s help to be tempted, I do a great job of that on my own.
I fear most people say the Lord’s Prayer from rote memory and never really consider what they ask in the prayer.
Marvelous sermon! I’ve been wrangling with a slight I have endured for many, many years. I say, oh forget it…but I don’t. I’ll think of all the ways I’ll ignore them in the future. But to FORGIVE them! Yikes! I must start. What is a good forgiving prayer? Would I’m tired of this nonsense and want to live in harmony be a good start? Through Jesus Christ. Amen.