This Reflection is one of a pair I read last week, but didn’t have a chance to post until now. Forgiveness is central to our faith, and it is easy to talk about, but really hard to do, sometimes near impossible. But, like giving and living generously, it is often of as much, or even more benefit to us when we can forgive.
Bitterness will eat at you. And it can be properly hard to let grudges go. If you’re holding a grudge or a wound against someone who’s hurt you in the past, make this Easter the time you find a way to forgive them. God says he’ll give you strength to find compassion. In forgiveness, you not only set others free from a debt they owe you, but you also transform yourself – imagine what the world might look like if even half of us practised forgiveness like this.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:8–9 (NIV)
I once suffered a painful betrayal from a close friend, and it took me years to forgive her fully. I recount this story in my book The Living Cross, and although these big stories stick in our minds, perhaps equally important are our day-by-day acts of forgiveness that help to keep our souls clean. But we can find it hard to forgive those with whom we have regular contact, partly simply because they are so close to us, and we know them well – foibles and all. We can cling to the ways they have let us down or acted unkindly, but when we do, the unforgiveness builds up like a wall between us. And our hearts form a hard crust, bit by bit, each time that we fail to forgive.
Yet we don’t have to live like this. We can ask God to dismantle these walls and dissolve that crusty layer as he helps us to forgive. Although we may not feel like forgiving, he can change our feelings. For forgiveness is an act of the will, which means we may not feel anything at all, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t working to bring freedom. He is.
How can we forgive? I suggest coming before the cross where Jesus died – this, the living cross – to name and then release each specific sin or wrongdoing there. We may be extending forgiveness to others, or we may be asking God to cleanse us. We wait, and we will receive from God his forgiveness and the power to forgive. We receive his gifts of love and new life. And we find that we are the one who has been set free from the prison of bitterness and unforgiveness.
Why not give it a go today?
Here is a suggestion for how to Act in response to today’s Reflection (just one option for now- check out further options in Forgive part 2!):
If you’re in a place where forgiveness is really hard, start by praying: ‘God, I want to want to forgive.’