Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness is clear, painfully simple, and seems to be directly related to our prayer life. Two authors who have been especially influential in my spiritual development over the years. Catherine Marshall and Corrie Ten Boon have written on this topic of forgiveness.
Lift Our Hand
Corrie Ten Boon tells one of my favorite forgiveness stories. She did post-war talks in Germany following WWII helping the country move on from the horrors of war. She would share how forgiveness is a key part of that healing process. Following one of her talks, a man whom she recognized as a guard at the concentration camp where Corrie and her sister had been imprisoned for hiding Jews came up to her, extended his hand, and asked for forgiveness from her. This man who had tortured them, starved them, and helped cause the death of her sister was asking for her forgiveness. After what felt like eternity in that moment, with all the things this man had done to her and her sister going through her mind, she had to decide whether to take his hand or not. Her prayer in that moment was, “Jesus, help me! I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” She continues, “And as I took his hand, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother! With all my heart!” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
Forgiveness is an act of obedience. We can “lift our hand” and then God provides the rest. We don’t have to, and many times can’t, “feel” like it first! We do our part (obey,) then God takes over.
Catherine Marshall says “forgiveness is withholding judgement.” It’s giving God the sole responsibility of being the judge. It’s NOT saying what happened is ok, right, etc. It IS saying, “They can be as wrong as wrong can be, but I won’t be the judge.” She even describes an exercise where she asked prayerfully for God to bring to mind anyone she needed to forgive. She started a list and prayed for a few minutes each day for several days. Then, she systematically went down the list prayerfully releasing each one to God’s judgement. She forgave them.
After reading this chapter in her book, Something More, I tried this exercise, and God started bringing to mind people I needed to forgive. Surprisingly, one particular girl came to mind that I had not thought of for over 40 years! She had been a friend in the 7th grade who had been very mean to me. It was so weird. God, really? I then realized that if I had ever seen her again at some chance meeting, I would have had ill feelings toward her. Now when I imagine seeing her, it makes me smile. That part of my heart has been healed. I have continued this exercise on a regular basis. It always amazes me who God puts on my list and how much freer I feel after I’ve forgiven them and turned them over to God’s judgement, not mine.
Learning From Children
Forgiveness is the theme for the month of March in Commonway Kids. A relevant topic for all ages. The CW kid’s definition of forgiveness is: “Deciding that someone who has wronged you doesn’t have to pay.” As with most things, the teacher learns the most (one of the many reasons I love teaching in CW Kids!), so I look forward to the new things I’m going to learn this month about forgiveness with CW kids. I encourage you to talk with young people in your life about this powerful topic!
God, continue to teach me about forgiveness. Help me forgive even when I don’t feel like it. Forgiveness is about You and me. You seem to want me to forgive for my sake, so that I can be made right with you! I want that so much! Thank you Jesus for your ultimate sacrifice on the cross so that I can be forgiven instead of having to pay.
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