“14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
I’ve been in the position where I needed to forgive someone and I bet you have, too. Sometimes it’s easy. It was no big deal, an apology was offered and forgiveness came without reservation. Sometimes it’s harder. It was a big deal but the apology was offered and forgiveness came – though it took a little effort not to let the event color my thinking in the future. Sometimes it’s the hardest. You know those times. The times were the bad deed was really bad and there has never been an apology. Instead it just hangs out there like last week’s garbage – it stinks and all you want to do is stay up wind. I’ll bet you have one or two of those in your past as well.
Our passage for today lays it all out for us in simple terms: forgive and you’ll be forgiven; don’t forgive and neither will the Lord forgive you. Those are tough words to hear. “But Jesus,” you say, “they haven’t apologized. The misdeed is still there. They are wrong and I am right! Why should I forgive?” Ask yourself this question: Is forgiveness dependent upon an apology? At some point each of us needs to grapple with this issue. Is forgiveness a willful act on my part or is it nothing more than a reaction that must wait for proper penance before it can be offered?
It’s easy to hold onto our pain and use it to fuel our righteous anger. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is not unusual for us to look for such events as outlets for the pain we keep bottled up inside. Do you keep a reservoir of indignant pain you can use to unleash a righteous fury upon those who wrong you? What would happen to that reservoir if you realized that you weren’t the ultimate judge of sin?
The reason Jesus tells us to forgive others is because of our Father’s forgiveness oft-extended to each of us. God is the ultimate judge. This means that all sin is ultimately against Him. That’s right, when that one person, somewhere in your past, committed that egregious act against you, the sin was actually against God – you just got caught in the middle. If God is willing to forgive, then maybe you should be willing to do the same.
Christmas is a lousy time to hang on to old hurts. As you pray today, consider those you are harboring ill-feelings toward. If you’re having trouble letting it go, consider the times you’ve sinned and been forgiven. Is what this person did to you really worse than any of your sins? Didn’t God forgive you? It’s time to forgive them. You don’t need an apology – it’s time to move on by forgiving and letting it go. That’s what God has done for you.