I’ve been reflecting a bunch today on forgiveness and grace. Of getting “what we deserve” vs. being set free. Of following through on that one line in The Lord’s Prayer that says, “and forgive us our trespasses [or debts] as we forgive those who trespass against us [our debtors].”
Those words are easy to memorize and repeat back, but they are much more difficult to live.
What made me think about it was in sharing so many stories the past few days with my little brother. Many of those stories started out with “Remember when…” and they would trail off down one of the many adventures we lived.
Sometimes a memory that wasn’t as pleasant would surface. Maybe it was a mean teacher, or a bully in the neighborhood, or maybe it was someone in our own family who made us mad at one time or another. What I got to thinking about was that those negative memories were pulling up things that hadn’t been forgiven. If those things had been forgiven, the story wouldn’t be there in the same negative way. Maybe they were minor issues, and didn’t seem like they needed forgiveness, but if it’s stirring up a feeling that is any part negative, bad, or sad, it’s worth forgiving the person for whatever part they had in it, and then letting it go…remembering it no more.
That’s what Jesus does when we ask his forgiveness.
In some ways, holding on to the unforgiveness makes for a more interesting story. We all want to show how we overcame feeling slighted or wronged. But forgiving those trespasses, and letting them go? Sure, we’d have fewer interesting stories to tell, but just maybe our stories would be filled up with the funny and positive instead. Maybe our hearts would be freer, and maybe we would set the trespasser [or debtor] free too. It may not be what they deserve, and no one’s saying you have to be around that person, but there is freedom in forgiveness. And going back to The Lord’s Prayer: we’re forgiven in the same measure as we forgive, so if you want to be fully free in forgiveness, you have to fully forgive, even those insignificant trespasses.
At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22 (The Message)
DAY 354 HOMEWORK: I have to believe Jesus wasn’t saying to humiliate ourselves by letting someone stomp on us over and over again. It’s not forgive and be a doormat. I believe Jesus was saying this to Peter to help his raging mind to become more calm. Peter, you’re going to mess up again and again, and I’m going to forgive you. Go and do the same.
Try this: If a negative thought about someone comes to your mind, forgive that person. They don’t have to be sorry, or even asking for forgiveness. This is your gift to yourself. See if you don’t feel freer. If it pops up again, hit repeat and do it again and again until you can finally let go in freedom.