Forgiveness

it’s amazing how often we circle back to the issue of forgiveness…both in scripture,  as well as in life.   in our study through the sermon on the mount,  we have been stepping through the lord’s prayer for a few weeks.   yesterday we came face to face with a most uncomfortable reality:

forgive us our debts,  as we forgive our debtors.

forgiveness.   there is probably not another concept more christian than the act of forgiving someone.   but what does it really mean?   why is it so difficult?   why do we have to do it?

our struggle begins with simply understanding the definition.   the more i see people struggle with forgiving,  the more convinced i am that we don’t really know what it means.   or we manufacture definitions that we can comfortably fit into our skill set…rather than going to the book.

in ancient language,  forgiveness actually has a meaning that is far less relational and much more contractual.   it is the voluntary release of a person or a thing over which you have legal or actual control.   it means  to release someone from the obligation of repaying a debt…cancelling what is owed.

the hebrews used the word to describe the act of divorce…to set someone free of the duty or responsibility of marriage.   it also meant to set someone or something free from the required punishment for wrongdoing,  even though the penalty was fully justified and payment should be rightfully demanded.

more than anything else,  the concept of forgiveness was all about abandoning what was expected and completely warranted,  and leaving it behind in order to move on…

in human relationships,  we seem to define forgiveness as an emotional response…when it is far more practical.   to forgive means to not seek revenge on the one who has hurt you.   it means letting go of the anger we harbor inside us and allowing god to deal with the person as he sees fit.   it means to set aside a response that may be fully justified,  in order for something greater to take place.   the apostle paul puts it this way:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.   Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.   If it is possible,  as far as it depends on you,  live at peace with everyone.   Do not take revenge,  my friends,  but leave room for God’s wrath,  for it is written:  “It is mine to avenge;  I will repay,”  says the Lord.   Romans 12:17-19

it doesn’t mean excusing a wrong or denying that it ever happened.   what it does mean is we don’t let our feelings control our response…we don’t allow ourselves to be consumed with anger towards the one who has wronged us.    it means we choose to cancel the debt.

when somebody wrongs us,  we feel they owe us something back.   an apology.   an admission.   an olive branch.   a changed behavior.   compensation for what we lost.   requisite hurt or pain or loss.   we want them to feel the pain or suffering we have felt.   we want the scales to be balanced and justice to be served.   our justice.

and we all have our own ways of exacting punishment to people who have wronged us.   meanness…manipulation… gossiping …sabotaging…cursing… ignoring…sarcasm…maybe even worse.

but we are called to forgive.   and though the process of working through forgiveness may be a long and complicated one,  i am convinced that it begins with prayer.

forgive us our debts,  as we forgive our debtors.

father,  forgive me…release me…cancel my debt…pardon my wrongdoing…set me free…abandon the punishment i deserve for what i have done to you and to others.   and i will daily work to do the same for others.

this is where forgiveness starts.

and ends.

have a great week.

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One thought on “Forgiveness

  1. Thanks, mike. Do you have any more written prayers to share? There are many times when I’d like to have words to “borrow”.

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