by Sherry Sommer

Last week our devotional team talked about what Jesus says about forgiveness. 

Aaron compared people to unbalanced scales — a depiction that is simple and yet very accurate. The Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. That falling short means that we will all be hurt by others and hurt others. We long for justice, but there’s so much we don’t see or understand in ourselves and in the world around us. Without God’s help forgiveness isn’t possible. 

Jesus has high standards for forgiveness; he says we can’t hold anything against  anyone. Without God’s help, forgiveness may seem foolish to us. We might instinctively want to extract vengeance or sacrificially to carry the weight of our hurt.  We may even feel that being unforgiving will make the scales of our hearts or the hearts of others more balanced. Jesus is telling us to do the opposite of what our instincts tell us. We need to forgive everyone we might hold a grudge against: 

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Mark 11:25

To achieve forgiveness is far beyond human comprehension.  For a long time, it was really difficult for me even to understand what forgiveness was. I knew what it wasn’t — it wasn’t minimizing or enabling sin, or brushing it under the rug. My son once defined it as “Not letting how you’ve been sinned against dominate your thoughts or making it everyone else’s business.”  That seems reasonable.  Kathleen Petersen had a helpful insight in our meeting — she pointed out that Matthew 6:12 describes sin as a debt: 

 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12

That helped me visualize more what needs to happen when I forgive — I need to recognize that sin creates a real debt, which for us, walking in “The Way of Jesus”, implies that it’s not up to us to collect. Only Jesus is able to cover that debt. He reconciles us to himself and he works to transform hearts. He works for good even in bad circumstances. Only he has the perfect judgment and power to do this work..   

Jesus says that, to the extent that we forgive, he is able to forgive us. He is asking us to forgive as a way of life, not just as one time actions. The forgiveness Jesus asks for is not simple. It is not something we can do by willpower or by following a technique. I do know that what Jesus commands us to do, he will make it possible.

 Jesus tells us to pray,  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This is not a scattershot or individualist prayer. He tells us to forgive as an entire community of believers. Let’s pray for the insight and dependence on Jesus we need, so that we can be a people who forgive continually and well. 

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.