What does it mean to forgive?
How can one forgive someone who does something over and over and over again without consideration of its impact on others?
How can one forgive someone who has committed a heinous act?
How can one forgive someone who has caused untold hurt and pain?
How can one forgive someone who has embarrassed, shamed and embarrassed?
How are any of these acts of forgiveness possible?
Honestly, without Christ, I believe forgiveness is near impossible. I know for myself, that when some one keeps doing the same offense over and over and over again, it’s pretty difficult to extend a hand of trust and forgiveness. We are either quick or slow to learn the lesson that this individual is undeserving of our trust and relationship. Over time, we only extend our hand so far don’t we? We expect the same behavior and the same result so we stop or limit the amount of involvement we expose ourselves to with the individual. Why? Because, it hurts.
Relationships, whatever kind they are, personal, social, or in the workplace, each require a commitment and an investment on some level. Once we commit and invest, then we expect the same from the other person or group. If we give so much of our time, skill, and heart then we expect the other to offer the same. But when the offering is limited, disappointing, or lacks honor or consideration; ouch. We feel the sting. We feel the betrayal. We feel the harm. And as such, we don’t want to feel that again…so we begin to disengage.
That’s not what our heavenly Father wants us to do, though. I’m totally writing from experience now, and not meaning to say I’ve got this all figured out. I don’t. Believe me. Forgiveness is a daily act and requirement; kind of like a multi-vitamin!
The next index sentence of the Lord’s Prayer says this…
As we have also forgiven our trespassers
You know I’ve never really considered the meaning and impact of the word ‘trespassers’ in this prayer before. That’s exactly what people are doing when they’ve hurt us. They have trespassed. They’ve gone over a trust and honor boundary. They’ve crossed the line of integrity. They’ve invaded an area where they should not have gone and as a result we feel the hurt and the loss.
So what do we do?
As believers, we’ve experienced the love, grace and mercy of our Father. In this prayer, Jesus is asking us to demonstrate grace and mercy as we too, have been shown.
Oh, how that goes against our human nature, though! We would prefer that our trespassers experience the same level of pain, hurt, and loss that we have. We want an ‘eye for an eye.’
Jesus is asking us to lay down the offenses at the foot of His Cross and be a minister of grace and mercy in His name. Jesus encourages us to pray in this way,
“Father, as you have forgiven me, give me a forgiving spirit. You have been merciful, loving, and generous to me. Help me to be merciful, loving, and generous to those who have trespassed against me.”
There are horrible, horrible things that have been done in this world. Some of us have experienced unimaginable horrors. In addition, there are inconsiderate acts done every day. All of us have experienced lack of consideration, betrayal, and hurt; sometimes daily.
So, how does one really forgive?
For me, who has experienced heart-crushing betrayal and plenty of emotional pain from ‘trespassers’ in my past, forgiveness is an act of the will. It is a resolution of the heart, mind and spirit to let go.
Dr. John Belham writes, “What does it mean ‘to forgive’? The word itself means ‘to send away’ or ‘to put away’. Forgiveness is the putting away of the things that would keep us apart. The aim of forgiveness is that two persons or parties estranged by a wrong or trespass might be reconciled and brought together. To bring this about, the wrong needs to be put away. God is willing to put away our debt before him. We must be willing to put away the offences and trespasses that are committed against us; to put away, on our part, anything that would stand in the way of reconciliation.
The quiet resolve before God to be forgiving needs to be carried into the cut and thrust of daily living. And so we must move from the beauty and quietness of a chapel – where to be spiritually minded is easy – to the home, the work place and the neighbourhood where it is, most certainly, not.”
What I have found as I set my heart and mind to forgive, is that I find rest and peace in my God, in my Jesus, and in the Spirit. My God forgives me. How can I not extend my hand of forgiveness as well when mercy and grace were so freely given to me?
Of course there is a cost. Yet it is through that cost and that pain that we become free from the bitterness, resentment, anger and hurt that could ultimately destroy us. Instead we are able to offer peace, love, and care to those like us; undeserving souls in need of a Savior and truly, a touch of Heaven’s grace and blessing.
I think today, I will end in prayer,
Heavenly Father, this prayer is a difficult one. How do we forgive some one who keeps trespassing in the same way with the same lack of consideration? How do we forgive some one who betrayed us? How do we forgive some one who took so much away from us? How do we forgive, anyway, Lord? Lord, we do not gravitate so easily to mercy and grace when we have been hurt or if we have unhealed wounds in our lives from past trespasses. Father, please forgive us. Father please give us a forgiving spirit. Please help us bestow mercy on those who may not be able to return it so easily.
Father, we pray for your Holy Spirit to breathe His guidance and discernment into our hearts and minds. In so doing, we will see a greater picture of what is at work in our lives; rather than just focusing on the moment. May we act with love and care in the lives of those in our sphere of influence and show your love rather than our judgment. Help us forgive our trespassers, O Lord.
Our Father in heaven
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven
Give us today our daily bread
Forgive us our debts
As we forgive our trespassers
*Photo by Cheerful Monk