• By Rev. Joseph A. Bias

Now, About forgiveness…

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:25-26

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:14-15

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

Jesus spoke often about forgiveness and it is clear that almost everything of our relationship with Him and the Father rests on this principle. Forgiveness of others for their offences against us frees us from our debts to sin that we have committed against God and others.

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Forgiveness from God is a gift. We don’t earn it. If we did, with what currency would we pay for it? —With our good deeds? No. With our sparkling personalities? No. With our human righteousness? No. With our wealth or our poverty or our good looks or our sparkling personalities? No. No. No.

We brought nothing into this world. All that we have of talent, ability, gifts, intellect, physical strength or power was given to us by God’s grace. Even the very air we breathe comes from God.

So, we are debtors to God’s grace. He came into the world not to condemn us, but to save us. He sent Jesus to pay the sin debt for us. Through Him we have forgiveness of our sins, not through our goodness, but by His love and immeasurable grace toward us.

Now, we have the opportunity and the commandment from Jesus to forgive others so that we can be forgiven. Forgiveness is not nearly so much about others as it is about ourselves. We forgive because we need forgiveness. When we forgive we set ourselves free.

Strife must yield to the heart willing to forgive. It is a force of peace in the midst of the storm of anger and violence against those we believe are our enemies. Unforgiveness keeps us bound to the past, to past offences, past emotional responses, past hatreds, divisions, prejudices, injustices and attitudes of victimization. Strife feeds on these things and keeps them alive, sometimes for generations. But, in a moment, forgiveness can end centuries of strife, divisions and hate and bring peace and good will in it’s place

Racism is a tool of the devil to keep people at odds with one another and keep the “victims” of it in bondage to the past. Past offences can make us hyper sensitive to the possibility of future offences and keep us from developing and enjoying the benefits and sharing opportunities of true, caring and affirming relationships because of unforgiveness. But when we forgive we open our hearts to a rich store of healthy, life enriching experiences and shared values, beliefs and bonds of love with others of different races, ethnicities, and cultures that results from peace between those who once were at odds with one another.

If those who so passionately cast a spotlight on their sense of real or perceived injustices, would seek for solutions to those issues, they would find that forgiveness is the direct path to putting those injustices to rest once and for all. If those who suffered injustices in the past would pass along to their children the joy of forgiveness instead of the perpetuation of the offense we would all find peace with one another.

As this New Year begins this would be a good time to let go of past offences and unforgiveness and let the New Year find you forgiven and free indeed. Jesus has paid the debt. We only have to accept the grace He offers and extend that same grace to others. In this is our Father glorified.

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