How serious is forgiveness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
You know, up until now, the Lord’s Prayer has been pretty good. You treat God as God. You ask for His Kingdom to come. You seek His daily bread. You ask for forgiveness of your sins. It’s been good. These can be hard, but many of us can like them.
Then right after asking for forgiveness, Jesus changes the game a bit with this saying.
“As we forgive those who sin against us.”
Wait a second.
If I want to be forgiven, I have to forgive them?
You mean that person who cheated me out of that financial deal?
You mean that person who was driving drunk and killed my daughter?
You mean that person who made false accusations against me and ruined my reputation?
You mean that person who sexually abused me in the past?
You mean that person who deeply hurt my wife?
Do you see a pattern forming here?
There are no exceptions. If we want to be forgiven, we have to forgive. There is no loophole in this. It is like the parable of the unmerciful servant. If you do not forgive, there is reason to think that you do not know forgiveness yourself.
One of the most popular blog posts I have done is one based on a weak atheist meme (Sorry for the redundancy) called Will Your Murderer Be In Heaven? In it, you will find wonderful stories of Christian forgiveness. I urge you to read it.
Now forgiveness doesn’t mean that you return to things as if they never happened. They did. You can forgive the babysitter for hurting your child. You do not have to hire them again. You can forgive the person who sexually abused you. You do not have to go on a car ride with them or be alone with them. It mainly means you are releasing your hostility and anger against them.
In many ways, I honestly do not like this teaching. I think I’m not alone. If someone hurts Allie, the first thing going through my head is not “How can I forgive and show love to them?” The first thought is “Where can I hide the body?”
Some of you have seen me on Facebook with this. I have a zero tolerance policy with those who insult my wife on there. My first action is to immediately go after them for that and make sure everyone knows this is something you don’t do again. I remember being at a conference once and I looked up and from behind, the person in front of me looked exactly like someone who hurt Allie deeply once and I was honestly filled with rage.
What does Scripture command me to do?
I hate it sometimes. I really do, but I have to work on that. I have to work on sacrificing my hostility towards them.
Something important I recommend also is not going up to a person and saying “I forgive you.” Instead, wait and talk to them first if need be about it. See if they ask it first. If they don’t ask for forgiveness, don’t suddenly pronounce it. That can rob them of the gift of repentance. However, you should be in the spirit of forgiveness even if they don’t ask it and in your own heart have forgiven the person. It will be a much better gift to them to get to ask forgiveness and hear you say it.
And as Lewis says, Jesus gives us no loopholes. If we do not forgive, then we will not be forgiven. He means what He says. It is a high calling to us and we’d best follow it as Christians.
Think about that person today. Ask for help forgiving them. Realize that if you were at the foot of the cross with this person, it would be ridiculous to tell the Lord about everything that person did to you. You have done worse to God.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)