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The following story comes from Glenn E. Schaeffer via Christian Reader ("Kids of the Kingdom;" September/October 1997):
During a childrens sermon one Sunday morning, I held up an ugly-looking summer shirt that I wore occasionally around the house. I explained to the children that someone said the shirt was ugly and should be thrown away.
"This really hurt me," I explained. "I'm having trouble forgiving the person who said those mean things. Do you think I should forgive that person?" I asked the children.
Immediately, my six-year-old daughter, Alicia, raised her hand. "Yes, you should," she said without hesitation. "But why? The person hurt my feelings," I responded.
To which Alicia wisely answered, "Because you're married to her."
We live in a society that doesn't care much at all about forgiveness. Our culture exalts those TV and movie heroes who take vengeance on others. Those who are willing to forgive are portrayed as weak, and those who refuse to forgive are strong. The result is a society filled with bitterness, vengeance, anger, hate and hostility. Marriages suffer because grudges are held and nobody's willing to forgive. Crimes of retaliation and ridiculously excessive lawsuits are rampantly common as people seek vengeance both inside or outside the law.
But Jesus emphasized the importance of forgiving others. In fact, he doesn't give us any other option, if we are to be his disciples. He said, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15). That's strong language!
Again in Mark 11:25-26, Jesus said, "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
When Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" (Matthew 18:21), Jesus responds by telling a parable about a master who forgave a servant's huge debt, but that servant refused to forgive another servant who owed him a small amount. The story ends with an angry master turning over the unforgiving servant to the jailers for torture and torment. And then Jesus made the application in one of the harshest statements in all the gospels: "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (Matthew 18:35).
Jesus makes it painfully clear that forgiving others is directly related to our being forgiven by God, and our unwillingness to forgive destroys the bridge over which God's forgiveness comes to us. Before you ask for God to forgive you, is there someone who needs your forgiveness today?
Have a great day!