by Bruce Hanson

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:12, 14

As the devotional team met to talk about the verses above, we discussed the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. We only truly have control over the first. The second may or may not ever occur. But forgiveness is something we fervently seek because of its impact on our own hearts. Forgiveness led me to consider another significant verse.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

For too many, wrongs done to them render the heaviest of burdens. How can I possibly forgive? I was hurt so badly!! Bitterness seems the natural outcome, but it eats at our hearts and dims the Holy Spirit’s light as He tries to shine through our lives. The following is not the answer.

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him,
“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22

Before going further, I want to give Peter a little pass. Peter ALWAYS speaks his mind. Trouble is, that speaking his mind sometimes leads Peter to place both feet in his mouth. But he is honest and seems to always repent when he missteps. Reading between the lines, Peter has likely just forgiven someone he has already forgiven more than once, and he is seeking kudos from Jesus. He needs to justify his actions, but there are no formulas here.

As humans, we tend to like formulas. If we do this (x), we get this (y). The trouble is that forgiveness is a condition of our hearts, not of our heads. It is seldom as simple as 2 + 2 = 4. More often than not, the need for forgiveness reflects a serious internal wound. We can’t come up with an answer and end up carrying that burden around with us everywhere we go. It is literally back-breaking. It interferes with everything we do. 

I am reminded of these words from Hebrews:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily
entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,
Hebrews 12:1-2a

More often than not, forgiveness is not so much about the other person. It is about our own letting go. We have the perfect example in Hosea.

He was a godly man with an ungodly wife, Gomer. Gomer was repeatedly involved in extramarital promiscuity. In our culture that would be bad. In Hosea’s,
it was beyond despicable. But Hosea loved his wife, so his willingness to forgive her changed everything.

I am well aware that forgiveness is not always easily acquired. It may take days and days, even years of talking with God. But in the end it is a fruit worth seeking, and a fruit you may share with everyone else who crosses your path. Lay your burdens down.

Seek those smiles!! The world needs yours!!

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Red Couch Theology Podcast
 today at 11 am, February 29th – leap forward 

Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron

Sermon on the Mount.

“Balance the Books”

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