One of the most difficult things in life is forgiving someone who has no concept of the depth and complexity of the pain they caused you. It’s hard enough to forgive some people when they apologize. It’s even harder when they don’t.
We live in a terrible and sinful world. We have different needs, different perceptions, different priorities, and different experiences which have made us who we are. We also each host our own “old Adam” which tempts us to think first and foremost of ourselves and the pains we bear, often ignoring the pains caused by our hand. Everyone has been a victim of some injustice in their lives to varying degrees, and each of us has caused someone pain. Sometimes the deepest injustices are weaved throughout years of our lives. How much can we possibly be expected to forgive before enough is enough?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”. Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”.
Our “old Adam” would tell us that this isn’t fair. We shouldn’t have to forgive a grievance caused so repeatedly. We may even begin to throw ourselves a pity party before we start to remember our own sin.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
Oh, that’s right. We may have been sinned against, but we have done more than our share of sinning ourselves. We are at the mercy of our Creator. He demanded perfection, and we missed the mark. If the reminder of our own sin were not enough, we are pointed toward Him who has no sin.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Christ himself forgave those who were still in the process of crucifying him. So we sit, quieted by our loving Savior, humbled by his perfect example.
God’s intention with his command is not to put us in our place and guilt us into forgiveness. He loves us and wants what is best for us.
1 John 4:9
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
I know that I have been guilty of holding onto resentment longer than I should have, and I have seen the damage that it has caused. Letting go of that resentment, letting go of the need for an apology, letting go of the countless rehearsals of what exactly I would say so they would know they were wrong, just letting go lifted a world of weight from my shoulders. It freed me to better “live through him”.
When we withhold our forgiveness for a sin committed against us we live in chains. We are dwelling on ourselves instead of our calling. God has great plans for our lives, and we can more freely fulfill them if we are uninhibited by resentment.
Luther sums it up in the explanation of the Lord’s Prayer.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
What does this mean?
We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.
So live your life, and live it to the full, uninhibited by resentment, freely forgiving, and gladly doing good even to those who sin against you, whether they know it or not.