From The Garden Bench - Forgiveness
Words by David Hollows
Do you hoard things? Birthday cards, scraps of material, nails and screws, used envelopes? Or, are you the person who de-clutters regularly?
Whether you hoard or not, are there elements of your life, even your psyche, which you find difficult to let go? Do you find it easy to do the ‘Frozen’ and ‘let it go’ or do you keep hold of the slights, the unkind words, the negative comments, the draining memories?
Do you even wear some of these negatives as a badge of honour to display to be seen by the person who caused the pain which has become an emotional duvet into which you slink on a bad day?
Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar via Unsplash
To be honest, most of us struggle with the act of forgiveness. We like to think that we can manage this and we always go through the process but, if we are really honest with ourselves, the little niggles remain and sometimes come back to haunt us.
Liberators found the following prayer crumpled among the remains of the Ravensbruck concentration camp where nearly 50,000 women were exterminated;
O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will. But do not remember the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember the fruits that are thanks to this suffering; our comradeship, our loyalty, our humanity, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of this. And when they come to judgement, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
The pain and fear inflicted on this woman is unimaginable yet she did the unthinkable as she sought God’s forgiveness for her oppressors.
You could argue that this context is so different from yours or that you are not such a ‘saint’. Yet in the same context, would your response have been different?
Here are two more contemporary examples for your consideration; When Samira’s husband was killed in a bomb attack on a church in Egypt, her message to the attackers was;
'I forgive you and I ask God to forgive you. I pray that God may open your eyes to light your mind’
‘We have something more important than anything else that makes us stay in the country. That is the life-giving message from the Lord. We are ambassadors for the Lord. We know that many countries withdrew their ambassadors from Syria which is bad enough, but if heaven withdrew its ambassadors it would be disastrous. As ambassadors of Christ, we will spread the values of heaven and the values of Christ; so, instead of revenge, forgiveness, instead of hatred, love, instead of killing, giving life.'
- Pastor Edward, Syria.
Photo by Gaelle Marcel via Unsplash
The act of forgiving others is often difficult; the act of forgiving ourselves is often even more difficult as we recriminate and reflect upon the hasty words or thoughtless acts. The Bible offers guidance for both elements of this issue; the words, forgive, forgiveness, forgave and forgiving are used 49 times and Jesus is quite clear about the issue;
The Peter came up to Him and said; Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? Up to 7 times? Jesus answered him; I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew chapter 18 verses 21 and 22) Jesus said; For if you forgive people their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses. (Matthew chapter 6 verses 14 and 15) In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus again reinforces the issue of forgiveness and on the Cross we have His ultimate prayer of forgiveness; Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke chapter 23 verse 34)
Forgiving others can be a big ask, forgiving ourselves even more tricky but to seek from God His forgiveness is a challenge. Yet, we have God’s promise; If we freely admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just, true to His own nature and promises, and He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (the first letter of John chapter 1 verse 9)
If you are uncertain of the vastness of the forgiveness of God, consider the fact that a crucified thief gained access to paradise in the moment of a ‘deathbed’ confession of faith.
You also need to understand that God’s forgiveness is not based on your merit but on His grace and mercy.
The greatest act of mercy we have is God’s forgiveness; not only are we invited to avoid the unpleasant consequences of our separation from our Creator, but that the same Creator takes on and suffers the consequences Himself. We have an amazing God. For when God approaches us with an offer of forgiveness, it is accompanied with a request that we take responsibility for our future thoughts, words and actions which are to be based upon the undeserving mercy of God. Once we understand this, then we have the capacity to show mercy and forgiveness to all those with whom we share our lives as we then become the true sacrifice of a ‘broken and contrite heart’ (Psalm 51 verse 17)
Forgiveness, like life, is not easy. But once we have experienced the forgiveness of God, our acts of forgiveness become easier.
A suggested response for you;
God, thank you that in your great mercy you love me, forgive me, accept me, befriend me, fill me, lead me and walk with me today and always.
You may also find the following hymns helpful;
Dear Lord and Father of mankind (Mission Praise 111) God forgave my sin (Mission Praise 82) God forgave my sin (Mission Praise 181)
You may also find the following prayers useful:
For my deceitful heart and crooked thoughts, for barbed words spoken deliberately, for thoughtless words spoken hastily, for envious and prying eyes, for ears that rejoice in iniquity and not in truth, for greedy hands and loitering feet, for haughty looks, have mercy upon me, O God.
O God, we confess that we often look back; we look back on our mistakes, the work left undone, people we have hurt, excuses made and things for which we feel guilty. So we overwhelm ourselves with regret.
Free us from all self-condemnation and as we look to you, may we continue to grow in grace and mercy. In the name of Jesus we pray.
God bless you
Photo by Mike Benna via Unsplash
Signing off; your local Lay-worker, David Hollows