And so we begin our journey as God’s forgiven people. We have traded our sin and brokenness for Jesus’ forgiveness and grace and come away changed. We have been made new and set on course towards transformation, to become like the One with whom we travel. As forgiven ones, we are called to move through this broken world, imitating our Lord. One way we do this is by offering the same forgiveness we have received to others. In the abstract, that sounds great. Like an enormous “pay it forward” plan. But forgiving is much harder than surprising a stranger by paying for her coffee or shovelling a neighbour’s snow. Forgiving means turning towards someone who has legitimately and often willfully wronged you and pronouncing . . . Your debt is cancelled. I no longer hold this against you. I no longer wish you ill. I release you. We do not do this because those who have hurt and disappointed us deserve it (no more than we deserved Christ’s forgiveness), but because God forgives us and calls us to now live and love as he does.
This is a difficult leg of the journey, but like all God calls us to, it is for our good. When we let God’s forgiving grace flow through us, we are released from the destructive power others hold over us, the power their sin itself holds over us. Anne Lamott has said, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” It only hurts the one who holds on to the hurt.
In contrast, when we forgive, we are set free and the pain, anger and bitterness begin to dissipate as we experience the wonder of the life of God himself in us, renewing us, and working through us. Not all forgiveness needs to be done directly between the offended and the offender. Sometimes the healing begins when we can just express to God or a safe friend our choice to forgive. And at times when it is appropriate to forgive directly, we add the blessing of giving the other an opportunity to taste the goodness of God through our gracious act. How the other responds to our gift is not up to us . . . we are not responsible for their journey.
William P. Young, author of The Shack, reminds us, “Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes, every time you reach out and touch a heart and life, the world changes . . . (God’s) purposes are accomplished and nothing will be the same again.”
The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (The Message)
So as we journey forward, let’s remember to take steps of forgiveness. Take time to sit with Jesus and thank him for his forgiveness of your sin. And then take time in his presence to reflect . . .
- Is there any poison in you that is holding you back from experiencing the fullness of God’s life?
- Who and what do you need to forgive?
- Ask for God’s grace and power to forgive, for without him you can do no good thing.
- Read through and contemplate Jesus on the cross as he forgave those who rejected, humiliated, tortured, and crucified him. (Luke 23:26-55)
- Pray slowly through the Lord’s Prayer
- Use Kevin Levar’s song A Heart that Forgives to guide your prayers as you choose to forgive others and let go of your hurts.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for forgiving me even though I am so unworthy. I long to be like you. By the indwelling power of your Spirit, enable me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. Use me as a channel of your love and grace to this broken world. For I ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.
Contributed by Pastor Carla Olsen Draper