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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Forgiveness

Matthew 6: 14-15

14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
 15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

These verses serve as a reminder and as a warning. We are reminded that as people who have been forgiven through God's mercy in Christ, it is natural that we would seek to live our lives in a spirit of forgiveness for others. We are warned that the failure to forgive others is a sign of our spiritual state. We are not truly forgiven if we cannot forgive others.

Granted, forgiveness of others is often very difficult. Some things are so mean and hideous that our emotional reaction prevents us from feeling and expressing forgiveness. This is complicated by the fact that many believe that the act of forgiveness is a signal that we believe the act committed against us is acceptable, that it was perfectly okay for the person to do such a thing.

But it is essential to bear in mind that forgiveness and excusing bad behavior are two separate issues. Christians can never excuse bad behavior or pretend that it is okay. But we can made a conscious choice not to hold that bad behavior against the offender, provided that offender is truly sorry and seeks our forgiveness.

It is also essential to recognize that often one must get themselves in an emotional position that makes forgiveness possible. As long as we are stuck with the hurt, the resentment, the anger, the outrage resulting from a terrible act against us, we are in no emotional position to forgive. We must first recognize the anger and hurt, allowing ourselves to feel the depth of the rage. We also need to express that anger and hurt, either directly to the offender or perhaps in a letter in which we pour out all of our emotions. Such a letter works well for offenders who are deceased or for victims who cannot confront the offender directly.

Once we do the emotional work necessary for forgiveness, we can then make a conscious decision to refrain from holding the offense against the offender, thus making it possible for us to move beyond it. It is then that emotional and spiritual healing can occur.

Those who can forgive are the recipients of much more emotional healing and fulfillment than those we forgive.

Prayer: "O God, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

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