For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Mathew 6: 14-15
Reading this passage always makes me nervous, uncomfortable, uneasy…sigh…and the reason is…obviously…because there are some things that are just too hard to forgive.
My recent visit to my home country re-opened old wounds and stirred some dust I thought was settled. I allowed pride to take over at times and I allowed my heart to be vulnerable to the sting of hate once again. I allowed old hurts to be revived and allowed my mind to dwell in the stagnant waters of thoughts of revenge…
How can I forgive the person who _______________________? (Fill in the blank with your own situation).
The answer is, oftentimes…I can’t…left to my own devices and power, I can’t really, truly forgive.
Achieving true forgiveness, getting to that moment when our soul grieves for the one who wronged us…that moment when our heart aches for the fate of the one who caused us pain…that moment when we are concerned for the eternal future of the one who destroyed us…achieving that state is not a human trait. It is a Christ-induced condition. It is a path that we cannot find unless guided by the Light of the Holy Spirit. It is a road paved with humility.
Probably the first step toward forgiveness is when the Holy Spirit inspires us to be humble and realize that we too are sinners…that we are fallen…that we are undeserving of forgiveness too.
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one… Romans 3: 10
And as Paul’s comprehensive list of Old Testament references continues:
…there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3: 11-18
Humility is the consciousness of the reality of our own sin. Such realization, such moment of clarity is what the Holy Spirit uses to move us toward the action of forgiving those who trespassed against us…those who offended us. The consciousness of our own inability to be good should send us on our way. The realization that our own forgiveness is a great gift of Mercy and Grace should open the door.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1: 13-14
We are new in Him and that newness was nothing of our doing. We cannot take credit for it.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5: 17
So why should we ask of others what we ourselves cannot give? Why should we demand of our brother what he cannot provide?
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11: 25
As my days in Panama drew to a close, I looked back and felt regret for the way I allowed my heart to dwell in old hurts…for the way I allowed it to harbor hate again…However, I’d like to think that the next time I feel the sting of unforgiveness begin to poke through my skin, filling my veins up with its poison, I would be able to remember to be humble. Humility is the attitude that will set me back on the track of forgiving my debtors as He has forgiven my own debt.