On the Saturday morning of the weekend in we looked at forgiveness, where we heard a story that challenged both young people and leaders on how we deal with past hurts. We saw so many young people take the first step towards forgiving people who had hurt them. It was so encouraging to see.
The first thing to understand when we are looking at forgiveness, is that we are forgiven. No matter what we have done, or will do in the future, if we bring it to God we will be forgiven. Jesus explained this beautifully in the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) We see that as we turn away from God, like the younger son, then realise our mistake and turn back, we can be safe in the knowledge that he is running to welcome us home. We understand that Jesus died for our sins so that we may be forgiven, and be brought back into his family. However, do we sometimes find our selves felling like the things that others do surpass our own sin, so much that they don’t deserve our forgiveness?
This is where we may become the older son, someone who sees others sins as worse than ours, sin that doesn’t deserve our own, and maybe even God’s, forgiveness. We read in Matthew 6:14 that “if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” This is a verse that we often use to say that because we are forgiven we must forgive others. However, there is a certain amount of condition implied in this verse. That IF we forgive THEN we will be forgiven. So our forgiving others will then cause us to be forgiven our selves. It is the opposite to how we often use the verse. We must forgive to then be forgiven.
This can put pressure on us, that we have forgive people who have caused us pain in our own strength, which means that what happened to us suddenly becomes okay. But that isn’t what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness should take a huge pressure off us. When we hold a grudge, something is hardened in us. We may hold feeling of dislike against this person, it might cause us to gossip about them, or even not like to hear their name mentioned. These are things that drag us down, and stand in the way of the person that God has created us to be, and that prevent us from living life to the full.
If we talk to God about these people we find hard to forgive, and submit it to him, he can help us to begin the first steps of forgiving someone. I’m not saying that it always happens over night, or that it is easy. But if we make a choice to, with God, forgive that person each day, over and over again, one day we will wake up and not need to try to forgive them any more, because the weight will be gone, and we will have forgiven them.