Forgiveness is more than a suggestion

Old Jerusalem, Via Dolorosa, “Via Dolorosa” inscription under Arch of Ecce Homo Photo: Ian and Wendy Sewell

As we prepare for Easter, it’s important to remember the purpose of the week. People wear crosses as jewelry, hang them on the wall, and display them in thousands of different ways. They are a simple reminder of the price paid for sin. The reward for that price is the empty grave. That’s the image to remember.

Jesus took on the burden of our sins. He offered forgiveness and a fresh start. If we are truly to emulate him in our lives, we are to do the same.

Forgiveness is more than just a suggestion or a good idea. Forgiveness is an imperative. If you are holding a grudge against someone, if you cling to anger, hardness of heart, contempt, etc. If your are unforgiving in your heart, you are not forgiven of your sins. It’s as simple as that. It’s the Catch-22 of Christianity.

In the Lord’s Prayer, it says forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Luke is more direct. He says forgive us our sins as we forgive others. How can we expect forgiveness if we are unforgiving in our own hearts? That’s the key—our hearts. Words don’t mean much if you don’t mean them when you say them. You can’t lie to God.

Consider the parable of the unforgiving servant. In the story, the king forgives a man of his enormous debts. The man goes out and finds someone who owes him a small amount but he shows no mercy. The king finds out about his lack of mercy and retracts his own forgiveness. Pay mercy forward.

When you forgive someone, in word or in heart, you free yourself from your burden. Don’t live in bondage to resentment, anger, hate, or fear. Release it, just as you have been released.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:14-15 ESV

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Mark 11:25 ESV

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