Friday, May 2, 2014

#131 He Forgives

The Lord's Prayer is memorized and recited across a wide range of ages and denominations. Some have known it since they were toddler age and it has become a thoughtless recitation that they can rattle off at the start of "Our Father". Others use it as it was originally intended, as a framework for how we should pray. In case you don't know it, here it is:

Matthew 6:9-15

"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. '  For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

This prayer has always been difficult for me to understand, mostly because of the part about forgiveness.  "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors".

Why does Christ assume in this prayer that I have forgiven my debtors?  And do my debtors even know that they are in my debt?

In most circumstances, they don't.

I think this is why he has to further explain forgiveness once the prayer is finished.  His explanation leaves no debate on the issue.  If you don't forgive, you won't be forgiven.  A heavy sentence to be issued, I know.  

I have to confess that I have been lazy recently.  Forgiveness is something I struggle with and I have been lazily dealing with it.  I've tried to justify how I should forgive.  That I'll forgive but not forget.  That I'll guard my heart, and always remember exact details of how I've been hurt.  That is not true forgiveness.  That is the way of forgiveness among men, but it certainly is not Christ-like.  This type of forgiveness would be like Christ telling me that he forgave me, but he just can't let me into a certain section of heaven because he hasn't forgotten the bad I've done.

The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.  

It is not for lack of desire to forgive that I have battled with forgiveness.  It is what forgiving ultimately means: freeing those who have wronged me of their wrong.

It is easy to remain hurt.  It is easy to remain angry.  It is easy to bottle hate inside and allow it to rage inside of you.  That's why I say that I have been lazy.  I have chosen to be weak rather than strong.

Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.
~Pope John Paul II

For some time, I found myself continually asking how I can forgive those who have hurt me.  I've stored away great advice, but refused to put it into practice.  The utmost thing I have learned is that one cannot attempt to forgive.  One must either forgive or forgive not.  There is no in between.  In the words of Yoda, "Do or do not.  There is no try." 

Although the hurt is difficult to abandon, the game changer is the point made in the Lord's Prayer. God has forgiven me. I make mistakes continually. I will continue to make mistakes until I die. Yet only a moment's repentance is all God needs to wipe my slate clean. He will never recall my sin.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

When we bring God into the situation, it puts our human emotions to shame.  So often, I take for granted how much God has forgiven in me.  I take for granted what my life would be without Him.  I take for granted the times he has shown me grace, favor, and mercy.  I go about like the man who haughtily refused to forgive another's debt after the King had shown him great mercy.

Micah 7:18-19
"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."

I am far from this point, and perhaps you may be too, but I have decided to recognize forgiveness as a daily job. It is something I must work at tirelessly. Sometimes I remind myself that those who have hurt me may not realize that they have hurt me. This makes forgiveness even harder. It's not right, it's not fair, but all I can do is pray. This is the jaw dropping, miracle advice I have received time and time again when I have searched for the answer to forgiveness. I am convinced that I can do nothing on my own. But with God I become the greatest version of me possible.

I don't like to end on a note that is hard to swallow, but I have to. Not only do we have to pray for those who we must forgive, but we need to pray blessings for them, with the sincerest of intentions. Here is where I find my greatest struggle: this isn't a one time prayer. It is your favorite song on repeat for the rest of your life until you find your heart has healed and forgiveness has taken over.

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