We all know we are supposed to forgive one another. That is not a new, shocking idea that I cooked up this morning while having my coffee. It is fundamental to the Christian life. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
Let’s say someone has wronged you, and it’s not your imagination; it’s an objective sin. It is easy to put that grievance in a compartment somewhere in your heart and keep it there. For years and years. After all, it was a real sin and it’s easy to feel totally justified in being indignant. It could be one of your family members, or someone at work or at church; it could be the neighbor who cussed you out for parking funny, or it could be one of your own children who didn’t sin at all, but just woke up too early this morning. We can gather up grudges from all kinds of places, for real or imagined sins.
But Jesus wants us to think about this a different way. Upside down in fact. Do we want God to put our wrongs in a compartment where He can review them regularly and hold a grievance against us? Aaaackk. No! We want Him to put them as far away as the East is from the West. We want Him to bleach the crimson stain out. What does He want us to do? He wants us to imitate Him so that He can imitate us.
Jesus taught His disciples (and aren’t we His disciples?) to pray very specifically. Whenever we ask God to forgive us for our sins (which we ought to do regularly), we are to ask Him to model His forgiveness after ours. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
So, we could easily say in our prayers something like this: Lord, please forgive me for my sin of (fill in the blank) the same way I have forgiven so-in-so. To tell you the truth, I don’t want God to model His forgiveness after mine. Mine is pretty weak and lame, and I am fully capable of carrying a grudge. But we say the Lord’s Prayer every week at church, and it is a potent reminder that I need to get full grace from God to forgive others so that I can ask Him to forgive me.
Here’s a suggestion. Who is it in your life who requires the most forgiveness from you? Then ask God to forgive you today the same way you have forgiven old so-in-so. And if you just can’t do it, ask God to give you the resources to extend forgiveness. Clean out that cupboard of grievances and ask God to give it a thorough shine.
Then we can all pray the Lord’s prayer without being hypocrites. And it’s amazing what a heavy weight those old grievances are. There’s no need for us to continue to drag them around like a ball and chain. Christians, of all people, are the most free. We have the means, by God’s grace, to live like we are.