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Monday, July 18, 2011

Forgiveness

Matthew 18: 21-35 "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.'"

Forgiveness. All of us want to be forgiven, rarely do we find it easy or desirable to forgive. In this parable of Jesus, it seems to be the perfect picture of our dilemma. In the verses following his coversation with Peter, Jesus goes on to describe a man who owed a debt and begged for forgiveness. His master did just that and cancelled his debt. The man then went out and encountered someone who owed him a debt, but he could not return the same favor. He had his debtor thrown into prison. Unfortunately, his original benefactor learned of his behavior and not only had him imprisoned, but tortured until he could repay what he owed.

Dictionary.com defines to forgive as "to cease to hold blame, to free from debt or obligation." According to the New Testament Greek Lexicon, the word for forgiveness in this scripture has an additional interesting meaning. It is to "send away from one, to let go and not discuss, to give up a thing, to abandon." These words don't describe what the person being forgiven is doing, but what the person who is forgiving is doing.

Have you ever heard someone say, "That 'so and so', he/she sure knows how to hold on to a grudge"? That is the opposite of forgiveness. Holding on to hurt, bitter, angry feelings only ties you to the person who hurt you and continues to give them the power to hurt you. I experienced this in a very real way many years ago. Someone hurt me deeply and for many years I carried anger and unforgiveness in my heart. It occurred to me one day, that the person I was angry with - didn't care. I wasn't making them suffer by hanging on to my grudge, I was making myself suffer.

In the Model Prayer, Jesus also taught that we are to pray for God to "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors".  I think our problem is that we often think by saying we have forgiven someone, that we are condoning what they did to us, given them permission to hurt us. In fact, by forgiving them we are taking away their permission to hurt us, and releasing them from any hold they have over us. We are casting the hurt aside, sending it away, abandoning it. We let go of it and refuse to discuss it anymore. 

We hold on because we want to judge. Scripture also tells us not to judge or we may be judged in kind. Let's see...judge the way I judge others or be forgiven the way I forgive others...I'm thinking I want to err on the side of forgiveness. Are you hanging on to something heavy today? Get rid of that ball and chain! Cast it away, give it up, abandon it. Just think how much lighter you will feel!

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