“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors . . . for if you forgive the sin of someone who sins against you, your father will also forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:11, 14-15).” These are Jesus’ words. They are beyond tough to swallow. Forgiveness is a great intellectual concept until you actually have to forgive someone who has deeply wounded you and sinned against you.
How is this possible? Paul reminds us to “forgive each other, just as Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).” That tells me that people in the earliest church who had personally known Jesus or knew people who knew Jesus in the flesh and blood, had a hard time forgiving. That’s because forgiveness is always costly.
When you read the Old Testament sacrifices for forgiveness, something always had to die to bear the weight of the wrongdoing. There was a cost to forgiveness. Jesus of course paid the ultimate cost at the cross where he lost His life. In one of Jesus’ final moments he cries out “Father, forgive them for the do not know what they do.”
Forgiveness must be embodied. Forgiveness was obviously embodied by Jesus, who displayed it on the cross. It was taught by Jesus in the prayer he taught us to pray and in Matthew 18’s parable of the debtor who was forgiven an extraordinary amount of debt by the King, only to put someone in debtor’s jail for a little amount of debt that was owed to him. He did not understand the grace gift of forgiveness and the cost of that forgiveness from the King.
My theory is that forgiveness is not an event. Rather, forgiveness is an embodied lifestyle that begins with a relationship with the Triune God. Forgiveness is not truly possible without the aid of the Holy Spirit. However, we have to cultivate forgiveness in our lives through reflecting on our salvation constantly, practicing confession, taking part of the Lord’s Supper, and going through a process of forgiveness. Over the next few Wednesday nights we are going to be doing just that, learning how to embody forgiveness together. I hope you join us!