By Robert Halsey Pine
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:7-15 NRSV).
Forgiveness is at the center of everything. Our Christian heritage comes out of the forgiveness of our sins through the death of Jesus. So much do we want to be forgiven and so little do we ourselves want to forgive. We are sometimes like the slave in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 18) who fails to forgive his fellow slave for a debt after he himself begged the King for forgiveness of his own debt and it was forgiven.
Many of the things that upset us in life do so because deep down we have not forgiven someone, or in many cases, have not forgiven ourselves. A number of years ago, I unsuccessfully tried to contact a college friend whom I needed to forgive and to ask forgiveness from. I was initially unsuccessful in my search.
It had been over 30 years since my last conversation with this friend. We had a disagreement over politics and had not spoken since. We were cheating each other out of a lifetime friendship. Fortunately, we finally reconnected. In that reconnecting, we both realized and accepted reconciliation without mentioning a word about the old incident.
Forgiveness is the beginning of healing. Jesus was explicit about forgiveness. He instructed Peter to forgive a brother not seven times but 70 times seven. We are not to come before God’s altar with un-forgiveness in our hearts towards others. If we want God to work in our lives, then forgiveness must be in our hearts. Un-forgiveness is not God’s nature. It is the nature of evil to stalk us like a lion, waiting for our moment of weakness.
Father God, You have given me the great gifts of life, forgiveness and the promise of eternal life with You. Like the forgiven but unforgiving slave, I won’t do for my brothers and sisters that which You have done for me. I have a hard time forgiving. I am unworthy of Your forgiveness. Father, I pray that You give me Your sense of forgiveness, wrapped in the love that You have given me. AMEN.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.