forgiving others

At our Ash Wednesday service we read prescribed passages, Father Michael including the verses in between the sections of Matthew 6. In keeping with one major theme of Ash Wednesday, forgiveness of sins and reconcilation, Father Michael impressed upon us our need to forgive others. He noted that having been raised in the evangelical tradition (true of all of us present, with himself), we were strong on the reconcilation of the world, or more prescisely in our theology, individual sinners to God, but we weren’t as good at applying the theology of reconcilation to each other. The passage he emphasized here is our Lord’s words after the Lord’s Prayer:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

Father Michael challenged us this Lent to focus on forgiving someone we might still be holding something against. Our Lord’s words here certainly are not in keeping with some of the popular theology present. We think we’re forgiven period, as long as we are reconciled to God. But that very reconciliation means that we’re reconciled to each other in Christ as well, that is to our brothers and sisters in him. And that we live as those who would be reconciled even to our enemies.

I am aware of what I consider a situation in one relationship which is not entirely closed, though the other person might think so. For me a key to forgiveness is living insofar as that’s possible, in the reconcilation of God in Christ which means a reconciliation with each other. Another key word on this from the same Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew 5:23-24 (and see the immediate context, including in the link):

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

This is not easy, and we struggle with it at times. But the same grace which forgave our sins is the grace by which we are to forgive each other’s sins. We may need to work through a process of acknowledging our guilt, because forgiveness of real sins is what’s being talked about here. Oftentimes we simply choose to ignore something, since “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter). But other things may well need to be talked through. While we all have work to do on our character in and through God’s grace in Jesus, full reconciliation to each other should be immediate. I am referring to normal situations. There are those relationships with which we must proceed with wisdom, for example one who may still fall into patterns of abusing others. But insofar as it depends on us, we should be fully given to forgiveness and reconcilation with them in and through our reconcilation with God in Christ.

Not always easy. Something I want to be praying and thinking about during this Lent.

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