The following is a link to our reading today from
"Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
"If anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other." Colossians
"Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." Colossians
"We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. . . . whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? . . . For we all stand before the judgment seat of God." Romans
"You have heard it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Matthew.
"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew
"Never avenge yourselves." Romans
"If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew
Jesus forgave as he was taken to the cross, he forgave as he hung on the cross.
I could go on and on for a very long time. But I won't because I think you get my point.
Forgiveness is primary to Christianity, it is primary to our identity as Christians, we must forgive as Christians. So why then isn't there more forgiveness in the world? There are an awful lot of Christians on this planet, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of forgiveness. There are many people in this country who would like to see us continue to be a "Christian" nation, a country based in Christian principles, yet as far as I can see we are not a forgiving people over all. Why is this? Why is it so hard to forgive?
So why is it so hard to forgive? First of all there seems to be a natural revulsion against it. There seems to be something hardwired within us to desire revenge. For some it may feel like forgiving makes you a doormat or is a sign of weakness. If I forgive I am letting the perpetrator get away with it and walk all over me. For others forgiveness appears unfair. Shouldn't we seek justice? Shouldn't the person who did wrong have to pay? Sometimes we withhold forgiveness because we feel that in doing so we punish and hurt the other person and we want to give them back some of the pain they have caused us. For others it feels like in forgiving we condone the other person's bad acts.
Well, we should try to forgive first and foremost because we have been forgiven. We too hurt and wrong other people. Every human being has done something to another person and something to God for which we need to be forgiven. None of us is perfect. God has forgiven us, and others in our lives have forgiven us, so we too need to forgive. This is God's plan for healing us individually and healing the creation as a whole. This is why the Amish forgave. They take literally the words of the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." For the Amish, forgiving the sins of others and being forgiven by God are inextricably linked in a circle. God forgives us so we forgive others. We forgive others so God forgives us.
And finally we forgive because forgiving others offers witness that we ourselves have been forgiven. The Amish forgave because God forgives them, they forgave to free themselves from the endless cycle of pain that revenge would have left them in, and they forgave to show the world the forgiveness of God.
Then Peter came up to Jesus and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times seven, but seventy times seven." Matthew
Let us pray:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.