One of the greatest stumbling blocks of Christianity is this --
Jesus says, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."
We think that we have to perform, to "be good," to somehow earn God's love and favor... which, of course, is impossible. Our forgiveness is a gift, freely given, received only by faith -- by taking Him at His word that no matter how big our sin, the blood of Jesus is more than enough to cleanse us.
Likewise, though, we also find it offensive to be expected to "pay it forward," to forgive every bit as freely as we have been forgiven. It's hard, it's offensive, and it's contrary to our natures that want to somehow make the guilty party pay.
But it is not only impossible ... it is the right thing to do.
Don't get me wrong. Forgiveness is not synonymous with forgetting, or with placing oneself back in harms way. Some of us have been victims of the most heinous acts. Forgiveness doesn't mean lightening the severity of what happened; or even pretending that it didn't happen at all. There are consequences for sin in this life; but when we refuse to forgive, we are standing in the place of God, and we are blocking the flow of Heavenly forgiveness, grace, and mercy to us.
But when we can find it in our hearts to forgive, something miraculous happens. Rather than releasing the offender into freedom, we are the ones who are freed. We no longer have to be chained to a memory, to a person, to an offense. When we make the to choice to genuinely forgive others, we can have the peace and joy of having a clean conscience before God, knowing that we are no longer defined by our past, by our hurts, but by who He declares us to be in Him.
In the light of His great forgiveness, all else falls away.
As we prepare to celebrate Easter, and the ultimate expression of God's kindness and forgiveness for sin, let us ask ourselves -- who are we harboring unforgiveness toward? You don't necessarily have to go to them to extend forgiveness.
Take it to the Lord, and let Him soften even the hardest part of your heart.
Love in Christ,