Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jesus 101: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. (Wikipedia)

I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

We live out our faith in a variety of ways. Holy Spirit, help me to appreciate and honor that diversity. Some people have gifts for teaching or hospitality or music. Others are passionate about service work. We find great examples of personal piety and discipleship among the faithful.

It’s our biggest shortcoming that we hold in common. We all struggle with Jesus 101: Forgiveness.

From the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12) to the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), the gold standard of Christianity is forgiveness:

“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-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Still, we prefer to nurse, curse and rehearse our hurts as Dr. Robert Schuller preached. Reversing our hurts, healing and reconciliation call for genuine forgiveness. We’ll take a stab at it, but we add conditions and limitations.

Lord Christ, incredibly, you offered a prayer of forgiveness for your executioners:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus - in your grace - it seems that I am forgiven hourly. And permanently. I must become more forgiving. No disclaimers or fine print.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)


Photo credit
Dr. Robert Schuller, from The Be (Happy) Attitudes