Today’s Reading: John 20:22-23 (NIV)
22 And with that, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
[Jesus said,] 14 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Grudge bearing seems to be a popular human pastime. Have you ever held something against someone? Maybe it was something they did or said that hurt you, and you were never able to let go of it completely. While we may not think of it as a lifelong hobby, it is interesting to count the cost of unforgiveness. I challenge you to a test: for the next twenty-four hours, I want you to be keenly aware of passing thoughts and comments that you think and make about others. Make a mental note of the times you recognize that you are still holding a grudge. Count it up and send me an email with a number in the header - no explanation is necessary. I will tally the results and post them in my blog. You see, trust issues run deep in every human heart, and with a good reason. It is hard to rebuild trust with someone who has let you down.
Do you think this is what Jesus means - that when we hold on to the things of our past, we are living with unforgiveness in our hearts? He was clear when He told his disciples, “If you do not forgive men their sins, they are not forgiven.” He also said, “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” OUCH! Grudge bearing is obviously not good for our physical, emotional and spiritual health. When we get angry and hold on to that internal resentment, we will let it eat away at the lining of our stomachs, causing us to suffer from ulcers and indigestion. We can suffer with stress or migraine headaches. We become so tired from carrying that grudge that maybe we choose to stay home and sleep, and not re-engage with the world around us. Grudge bearing makes us cynical, pessimistic, and can eventually lead to feelings of hopelessness and fear. Sounds like fun, huh? When we weigh the cost of holding on to things that should have been forgiven long ago, our hurts can literally eat us alive.
It is difficult to understand why Jesus would go to the lengths He did to suffer so and die on a cross of shame to save you and me from our sin, when we still have the freedom to choose whether or not we will forgive each other. When I hold back forgiveness from a family member, friend, or neighbor, it is as if I am personally re-attaching Christ to the cross with my nails of unforgiveness. I imagine His heart breaks every time I become uppity and stubborn, unwilling to forgive. Maybe my neighbor’s sin won’t be forgiven; but neither will I. If we are to learn how to love like Jesus loves us, then we must be willing to forgive each other, and let the great pastime of grudge bearing go once and for all.
No wonder we need His holy breath to help us. I know that I am incapable of forgiveness all by myself. It takes something greater than anything I’ve got to offer, to help me let go of the hurts and the pain that I’ve endured along the way. I need the living breath of God flowing in and through me each day, so that when I pray and ask the Lord for His forgiveness, He will not only forgive me but will help me completely forgive others.
A new breath of fresh air is just a prayer away. Are you willing to set aside your pastime and choose to really forgive? I’ll see you this weekend at the altar of Faith Church. We can pray for each other and begin to fully experience the miracle of forgiveness through our Lord.
Grace and peace,
Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO
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