Thanksgiving is around the corner. We are taking inventory of what we feel and hope to accomplish. We want to prepare ourselves for the occasion.
Teacher, you teach us to forgive. Sometimes the act of forgiveness comes easily. We are surprised by the joy we feel inside as a result of letting go. Other times it does not. The harm that we face from that which you ask us to forgive is great and it is painful. How do we manage this?
Yes, it is a joyful act in letting go of that burden we carry that the sinner has placed upon us. Jesus has taught us to forgive one another as He forgives us.
Peter came to Jesus and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18.
We must pray to our Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit will bring us inspiration and strength. We pray the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Jesus teaches us that we reap what we sow, “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5.
Yes but Teacher, it is easier to let go and feel the Spirit when someone comes to us asking for forgiveness. It is so much easier than when we are harmed and that person turns away and does not face us as a sinner.
How do we manage this?
An unrepentant sinner is a challenge for our human character. Earlier we discussed the example of Matthew 18 “Dealing with Sin in the Church” in greater depth. Matthew 18 is not always practical when the oppressor causes harm and leaves never facing his responsibility. We must pray for Jesus to enter that person’s life and for the Holy Spirit to bring us strength and that person the conviction to do that which is right and come into relationship with the Lord. We have a human tendency to try to keep things in balance and this upsets our sense of balance.
We can look to our daily devotion for a solution to our dilemma. We have much to learn from this example. War is a terrible experience. Innocent people are taken prisoner and punished severely. Like those who persecuted Jesus on Good Friday, these people causing harm appear to justify their sinful acts in illogical fashion. Either they are not believers or they have turned away from the Lord. The receipt of this sinful abusive unmerited persecution that oppressors may appear to take pleasure in placing on a victim results in the human recipient building up layers of fear, angst and even hatred against the oppressors. This buildup contributes to a harmful self deprecation that results in the recipient getting a double dose of harms.
Jesus gives us an example from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23.
The oppressed react within the normal realm of human response when they experience pain and feel the need to retaliate. But in the long run the pain experience and retaliation reaction will become a double dose of harm to the oppressed. If we turn to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we receive the guidance and strength to move on without feeling the need for retaliation. This frees us from the harm we may inflict upon ourselves. The oppressor may harm us physically and emotionally, but not spiritually.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4.
I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5.
Consistent with our devotion today, the Lord will help you let go of every angry grudge as you watch the Spirit build into you a place where you feel and others see the Savior. Enjoy the holiday we have ahead of us! Amen.