Skip to comments.A Reflection on Forgiveness
Posted on 10/04/2005 6:38:48 PM PDT by sionnsar
Forgiveness. It is a thoroughly Christian word. It is a powerful experience to be forgiven or to have forgiveness withheld from us. If we were to try to think of one word that summarizes what the Christian faith is all about, we couldnt do much better than this: forgiveness.
God has freely forgiven us through the saving death of Jesus Christ on the cross. And we who follow Him as Lord have been given a share in His ministry of reconciliation to the world. We are to extend to others the love and forgiveness that He has extended to us.
In so many ways, the word forgiveness sums up the life and teachings of Jesus. His words from the cross were Father, forgive them. In the Lords Prayer, He taught us to pray, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Many of His parables have this as their underlying theme. And when Peter asks, Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times? Jesus replies, As many as seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22) The pattern of Gods relationship with us is to be the way we relate to one another with patient, consistent, repeated forgiveness. Thats what it means to be a Christian to be forgiving.
Our great scandal and grief is that so often that is not the case. Why is it that religious people are so often seen as judgmental and critical? Why is it that the Church projects to many the image of being moralistic and condemning rather than accepting and forgiving? Why is it that we harbor grudges and resentments and sometimes nourish them and keep them alive over a long period of time?
All of us have had difficulty in this area, of either an inability or a refusal to forgive someone who has hurt or offended us. Some of us are struggling with it right now. And we realize that it has a kind of power over us, and that if it is not dealt with, unresolved anger, hurt, and resentment will become a kind of poisonous spiritual venom within us that will destroy us.
We must discover what countless other serious Christians have discovered for themselves: We will have no real inner peace or contentment until we allow the grace of a forgiving heart to govern everything we do.
The truth is that a great deal of our anger and resentment comes not from sins done against us, but from wounded pride, from envy, and from not getting our way. We become angrier and defensive when told that we ought to be more forgiving. We even carry on imaginary conversations about what we should have said or done when someone offended us, or we plot revenge and consider how to strike back and get even. Perhaps we interpret forgiveness as weakness or as a vindication of the wrong done to us. We tell ourselves that they must first apologize and ask for our forgiveness but we dont find that attitude in the teaching of Jesus. He teaches us to be forgiving, if we expect to be forgiven.
We are Christians because we have had the life-changing experience of being forgiven by the Lord Jesus. And it this experience that will enable us to begin to practice forgiveness in daily life as we learn how to forgive and to ask for forgiveness and to extend it over and over again to others. It sometimes begins with learning how to forgive ourselves.
Let us grow closer to Jesus, who forgives us all. Allow Him to love and forgive others through us, regardless of how they have hurt or offended us. See others as Jesus sees them.
Forgiveness its what the Gospel is all about; its what the Church is all about. Is it what you and I are all about?
The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
(This reflection is based on a sermon given by Bishop Iker at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Arlington, on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2005.)
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