We’re taking a look at each phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, one at a time. This week’s phrase is, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
“But I can’t forgive them. It’s too hard.”
We have all wrestled with those words at one time or another. Who could raise a child without needing to forgive? Who could be a child without needing to forgive? Anyone who has been married is familiar with forgiveness challenges. The same is true for coworkers, fellow church members, neighbors and siblings. And as human beings, we don’t always like challenges.
But when it’s hard to forgive, here’s the thing: the only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative. Unforgiveness is a bitter pill you swallow when you’re trying to make someone else sick. And it never works. When you won’t forgive, the only one stabbed by constant pain is you.
When forgiveness is hard, think about Jesus Christ. Was it hard for him to forgive you? Yes and no. Yes, because your personal offenses against God are far worse than the list of offenses that anyone has done against you. No, because Jesus’ heart for you is full of kindness and compassion. He loves you from his guts. And so his forgiveness for you wasn’t forced. He wasn’t clenching his teeth and holding his breath as he gritted out the words, “I forgive you.” Jesus forgave you fully and freely. It was in his heart long before you ever repented.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” is our verse for today. Ask Jesus to give you the same heart that he has for both you and the person you’re trying to forgive. Realize how dangerous an unforgiving lifestyle is. Beg him to help you take steps toward forgiveness, that you might forgive freely and fully. Allow his forgiveness to fill your heart so that there’s no room for attaching strings, making excuses or demanding payback.
Forgiveness from God to us is instantaneous. Forgiveness from us to others is a process, one step at a time. But what better process to begin? Because forgiveness isn’t just a part of the Christian life…it is the Christian life.
Prayer (written by Martin Luther, about the words, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”):
Relieve our troubled consciences, dear Father, from the guilt of sin and the fear of judgment. Help us not lose courage because of our sinful and guilty lives; rather, give us the confidence that your mercy is higher and broader and stronger than all our being. Teach us, dear Father, that like Peter we must sink whenever we take our eyes from your Son. Lift from our souls the burden of sin, that with joyful hearts we may do and endure all things, and live and die fully confident of your mercy. Fill us with a sense of grace, that we may gladly forgive all those who harm us. Protect us from becoming proud over all our doing and busyness. Help all people to know your mercy, especially those who are struggling with death or tempted to despair. Comfort them, and give them your peace. Amen.