Recently I was reading a survey that asked Christians the question, “do you find it difficult to forgive?” More than sixty percent of those surveyed were honest enough to respond that forgiveness was a problem in their lives. The tragedy of the survey was that the most painful and serious offenses occurred not with strangers but between those closest to us, our family and friends and, as unbelievable as it may sound, often with people in the church.
The bottom line of the survey was that our refusal to forgive is destroying relationships and often devastating the family. So as I thought of that, the obvious question is -- are there people in our lives that we need to forgive?
We read in Matthews 18:21-35 that Peter asked Jesus how often should we forgive someone. Isn’t that just like Peter to raise that kind of a question! I love Peter because he’s real and struggled with so many of the issues that you and I wrestle with.
The Rabbinic rule for forgiveness at the time was to forgive someone three times. But Peter, perhaps thinking he was going to get an “atta boy” from Jesus, goes beyond that standard and extended it to seven. I trust we know that Jesus responded that we should forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. What Jesus was teaching is that we can’t quantity forgiveness, that forgiveness takes the place of revenge.
From time to time, people ask me what happens when the other person doesn’t deserve or want our forgiveness? I would suggest that the reasons we forgive are:
1. Because Jesus tells us to. (Forgive so we will be forgiven – Matthews 6:14)
2. Forgiveness is something that we do for ourselves. I know when I forgive someone it gives me a sense of peace, often lifting heavy burdens off my shoulders.
3. Unforgiveness often steals our joys and affects our witness for Christ.
As we prepare for Pentecost this week, I would ask us to think about those people in our lives that we need to forgive and then just do it. Is there anger, hurt or frustration in our lives that we need to just let go of and let God deal with it? Forgiveness is the key!
But as we do that, we need to also honestly ask ourselves are there people in our lives that we need to ask forgiveness from as well. So often we are quick to judge others but fail to recognize our faults and short-comings. To paraphrase Jesus – why do you worry about the spec that is in someone else’s eye and forget the log that is in your own. Just saying!
This Sunday we’ll be celebrating Pentecost, a day that marks the coming of the Holy Spirit ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven and is considered to be the birth of the Christian church. Many people wear red on Pentecost Sunday signifying the power and fire of the Holy Spirit. Please join us as we will be talking about what Pentecost should mean to us today and how we can have the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives right now..
In Christ’s love,