Sometimes forgiving someone may easy, but other times forgiving is a struggle, a challenge. The depth of hurt, lies, rumors, abuse, significantly changes the ability to forgive. No longer is it a simple matter of “Well, just forgive the person and get over it.” The pain is so deep, so real, so penetrating that even talking about forgiving seems an impossibility.
Sometimes, well-meaning friends will quote these words from Jesus.
[Jesus said] “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.(Matt. 6:14-15 NET)
Our Gospel reading for Sep 13 also highlights this: Matthew 18:21–35. Maybe you have been caught in the clutches of this Scripture. I know I have. The severity of the sin (against me) increases the struggle to forgive (“I will NEVER forgive that person!!”). Other things follow: shame for not being able to follow Jesus’ words, fear that by not forgiving I have committed a greater sin than the one who sinned against me, guilt for failing to live out the Law. And the list goes on.
At this point of failure, we cannot even bear the weight of the Law let alone forgive. There is another aspect that is often missing. Jesus came to bear the sins of all people— all sins, including (especially?) not forgiving another person. Jesus has fulfilled all demands of the Law for us… in our place. Jesus forgives when we cannot. Thus, instead of living in the dread of unforgiveness, we live in the reality of Jesus’ real forgiveness for us in our place. This is not always an instant fix. But…
In time that news changes everything from dread, fear, pain, failure to relief, peace, hope, and forgiveness. Will our words immediately change? I have not found that to be the case, but the longer I read and reflect on what Jesus has done, the more it is a reality. The demand to forgive is changed to the fulfillment of forgiving —in Jesus. And this path will ultimately lead to change.
Written by a struggling sinner, who has faced this for most of his life with different sins, different people, and still learning about forgiving.