This Forgiveness Thing
March 4, 2019
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25, NIV 1984).
We were sitting in a circle, the windows around us open to the East Tennessee Mountains, a group of Christian healthcare professionals sharing personal prayer requests. Andy is in his mid-seventies. He hemmed and hawed a bit before he paused and spit it out, “I need prayer for this forgiveness thing we’ve been talking about.” He paused again, as if almost holding it in, and then continued, “I’ve been divorced 21 years. I know I have forgiven her a number of times for leaving me, but it keeps popping up and interferes with all my thinking. I need your prayers to just settle it.”
Living with humans brings many wonderful joys to life but sometimes brings deep hurt, hurt delivered by those for whom we care: friends, bosses, spouse, family. When that hurt is undeserved, or comes without expected grace, it carries resentment on its shoulders. And, once we resent someone, the hurt of resentment soaks into our souls with a mixture of pain and pride, to where it becomes difficult to forgive. After a while, the resentment may even feel good to our wounded souls, so that it might also cause us pain to forgive.
Jesus tells us that our inability to forgive is dangerous. Though unforgiveness may never overcome the grace of the cross, Jesus makes it clear that our unwillingness to forgive, even if it hurts to do so, somehow separates us from the realization of our own forgiveness before God. And many of us badly need that certainty of God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness, even though it may hurt to let go, even though those who have caused us harm have not yet repented, is the message of the cross (Luke 23:34). We count on that message for our own lives; can we hand that message off to others?
If I hold anything against anyone, help me forgive them before I come to You again.