“Forgive us our sins.”Luke
Forgiveness is never an easy answer. But it’s the most powerful answer there is. It has been shown medically that the act of forgiveness offers more than just spiritual relief, but also physiological and mental relief as well. As noted in the article, “Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It,” written by those at the noted medical group Johns Hopkins, “Studies have found that some people are just naturally more forgiving. Consequently, they tend to be more satisfied with their lives and to have less depression, anxiety, stress, anger and hostility.” They go on to state, “People who hang on to grudges, however, are more likely to experience severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other health conditions.”
I find it interesting that Jesus spoke on forgiveness in the prayer He taught His disciples (amongst other similar teachings throughout His ministry) to pray. The qualifier is equally interesting:
“for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”
The Gospel of Matthew recorded this saying of Jesus,
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
The question I have often pondered is this: what is it about the act of forgiveness, vocalizing (or not!) “I forgive you,” that is so complicated and difficult? What makes those walking in unforgiveness hold on to that grudge or allow that wound to continually fester? Though there are multitudes of probable answers, one that I have recently began to reflect on is that living in a state of unforgiveness feels good.
When we choose to not forgive another, whether our family, friend, or enemy, there is a part of our pride that is attended to, in a most unfortunate way. There is a simple justification that we allow ourselves to indulge in, and whether or not it makes the pain of the wrong “go away” (it never really does in this state), or it allows the person in this state to feel “in control” (they never really are), the state of unforgiveness is, simply enough, an unfortunate practice in the human art of pride. An art, I may add, that has become increasingly “perfected” in the west.
It is for this reason that many in our world are masters in the art of pride and holders of grudges. But the truth to this state, is that it cannot be so within the life of a disciple. Regardless of how wrong the wrong, or how painful the act was that lead to the state of unforgiveness within ones life, when one continues in this state, the repercussions reverberate into the spirit of the man or woman who partakes in this way of being.
Out of all sins one is able to commit (and omit!), unforgiveness has the special identity of being one that cannot at all exist within the realm of those who are redeemed and forgiven.
As Matthew recorded, Jesus stated,
But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Thus, there is a direct link between ones inward (our outward) expression of forgiveness, and the Father’s full and perfected forgiveness within the life of the follower of Christ.
I am reminded of the horrid story of the massacre of an amish school some years back. A young, deranged man walked into an Amish school, and shot and killed multiple children, and eventually turned the gun on himself. In the wake of the grief and the pain that followed, there was a surprising response within the community. Far from modern day actions of destruction in the midst of grief and pain, the Amish community gathered at the grave site of the murderer and publicly declared that they forgave this evil man and his actions. Though they continued to mourn the loss of life, they would not allow one evil act to derail what they knew would ultimately lead to peace. Not that this was an easy thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do, Biblically and emotionally.
Are there past wounds in your life that that you are still needing to forgive someone for causing? When that person is around, or that situation is recalled, when you reflect on it, does it still create a sinking, turbulent feeling in your spirit? If so, there is still a wound there. There is still something that needs to be forgiven, and made right, if not with the individual, ultimately, with God.
The great thing about Grace is that it covers a multitude of sins, and living in unforgiveness is, to be quite clear, sin before God. But there is an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, and as we seek to walk in a life of forgiveness, there is redemption offered. Don’t hold on to offenses. It’s not worth eternity.