One important aspect of following Jesus is the ongoing need to forgive those who have wronged us. And to keep forgiving them.
That is part of the prayer Jesus taught us as his followers to pray:
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Or the version in Luke’s gospel:
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
We do well to voice the Lord’s/our Father prayer, offering it as a prayer to God. And I think we do well to say out loud or under our breath, “I forgive so and so.” And on and on. And to keep doing that.
In Galatians we’re told to stop biting and devouring each other, or we may be consumed by each other. In other words being against someone and holding grudges is destructive to one’s spiritual health. Unity together as God’s people brings God’s blessing. Disunity seems to bring something of the opposite.
When I simply voice forgiveness for those who have wronged me, I am released from the hold they may have over me through God’s working in honoring and making real what I’m saying. I can let go of the grudge I have against them. What I’m suggesting is that with our step of faith in obedience comes the beginning of God’s blessing. It must not stop there.
Almost always, as Miroslav Volf has pointed out to us, when we are sinned against, we often sin back. So even if we were in the right in the matter or the victims, we end up sinning against the one who has hurt and victimized us. So that if they are aware of this, we may indeed have to ask them for their forgiveness in the pursuit of reconciliation. There may be exceptions to this rule with reference to people whose sickness may make them dangerous to others.
Of course all of this is possible only through Jesus and what he has done for us through his death on the cross. By offering himself, his body, he has broken down the walls that divide people. In and through himself, through his broken body for us. We are forgiven of our sins through his sacrificial death. And on the basis of what God has done in and through Jesus, we can forgive others. And ask for their forgiveness in the hope of at least the beginning of full reconciliation.
In a post to come I want to think through our need of asking for forgiveness. In the meantime give this video a look if you would, from a dear former pastor of ours, Pastor Ed Dobson. And how God worked in his life, and out from that into the lives of others.