(Jesus Does Math by LivingOS @Flikr via Creative Commons License)
2012: A Year of Thanksgiving and Praise
Day 19: Today, I'm Thankful for Forgiveness
Have you ever had a difficult time forgiving someone for something they did? Who hasn't, right? Sometimes people can be so insensitive, and the things they do can hurt so deeply...
How many times have you thought (or even said) "I can never forgive him for what he did"?
Or how about, "I've forgiven her, but I'll never forget what she did".
Sometimes we are so deeply offended that it seems we can never truly let go of the pain. The truth is, forgiving others isn't nearly as important for the other person as it is for ourselves.
I know that may seem a bit odd, but it's true, and I can back that up not only with scripture, but there is also a good deal of research that shows holding onto things affects us physically and emotionally as well.
For years it has been suspected that holding onto anger, hatred, resentment and grief can actually cause cancer. Many treatment programs for physical illnesses incorporate stress relief as an important component of healing.
The interesting thing about forgiveness is our often warped perspective. We want others to extend forgiveness to us because there was a "reason" or an "excuse" for the way we acted, or the things we did, or the words we spoke. Yet, we are unwilling to extend that same benefit of the doubt toward others and cut them the same amount of slack we expect from others.
The Gospel of Matthew puts it this way:
"For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."
~ Matthew 7:2-5
When the disciples asked Jesus about forgiveness, they asked how many times they had to forgive. Don't many of us still have that same feeling today? When someone does something once, we forgive. When they do something a second time, we are a little more hesitant. But, by the third time... Well, three strikes and you're out, right?
Peter wanted Jesus to quantify the problem of forgiveness. He thought that seven times was surely more than enough chances to give someone. But, what was Jesus' response?
"I do not say to you, up to seven times,
but up to seventy times seven."
~ Matthew 18:22
I don't know about you, but I think I'd probably run out of patience long before the 490th time!
There is another reason that forgiving others is so important. Look very closely at this verse, also from the Gospel of Matthew:
"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." ~ Matthew 6:14-15
Wow! So, if I don't forgive others, God won't forgive me? This suddenly puts forgiveness in a whole new light, doesn't it?
I have made a lot of stupid mistakes in my life -- and especially in my walk of faith. I'd love to sit here and tell you that they are all in my past. But, I make mistakes daily. One of the Greek words that's translated as "sin" is the word "Hamartia" which means "To miss the mark" -- as in an archery competition. When you missed the mark, you failed to receive the prize, or blessing. This is the word that is usually translated as sin. It is used 221 times in the New Testament. When we sin, we are "missing the mark". We may be aiming for God's best, but we don't hit the bulls eye.
The thing is, no matter how many times I miss the mark, even if its the same mistake, God forgives me. In fact, he forgave all of my sins before I was even born.
And when God forgives, he forgets all about what we've done.
"For as the heaven is high above the earth,
so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."
~ Psalm 103:11-12
That's the target we need to be aiming for. That's the kind of forgiveness we need to practice with others -- and with ourselves. We need to forgive and then so remove the offense as the east is from the west.
Whatever wrong someone has done, or whatever wrong you have done, it isn't worth holding onto. Forgive, and to the best of your ability, forget.
Today, I'm thankful for forgiveness.