Friday, March 22, 2013


“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” –Mark 11:26 Someone said, “There is no better freedom than forgiveness.” Forgiveness is absolutely crucial to a vibrant and growing life with Christ. Jesus taught in Mark 11:26 that if we harbor resentment towards a brother or sister, we cannot have a healthy relationship with our loving God. Of course, we are forgiven, once and for all, when we confess our sins and acknowledge Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. But we cannot experience that forgiveness when we do not forgive. I was reading about David this morning and how he repeatedly had the opportunity to rid himself of his greatest problem (by killing Saul) but instead he chose forgiveness. I wasn't thinking so much of David as I was thinking about his men watching him. I wonder how his stance to forgive rubbed off on them? I know our kids watch us like hawks. They mimic and justify their own actions by copying ours. It's a great responsibility being parents. Is it difficult for you to forgive? Do you have trouble in letting the past be past? It can be very difficult. Steve Goodier tells the story about an elderly Virginian woman who lived to see her beloved Richmond occupied by Union troops after the American Civil War. The matron was walking down a Richmond street when she tripped over a step and fell. A Union soldier courteously helped her up. “How very kind of you, young man,” she said acidly. “If there is a cool spot in hell, I hope you get it.”
Maybe it was still a bit early for her to let go of those deep-seated resentments. Angry and bitter lives are never happy lives. A beautiful legend tells of an African tribe that ritualizes forgiveness. When a tribe member acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he/she is taken to the center of the village. All work ceases and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused. Then the tribe bombards the rejected person with affirmations! One at a time, friends and family enumerate all the good the individual has done. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with some detail and accuracy is recounted. All their positive attributes, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. Finally, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the outcast is welcomed back into the tribe. What a beautiful ritual of restoration! They replace hurt with happiness; pain with peace. Once again they are family. The rejected one is restored and the village is made whole again.
 Paul Boese has said, “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” As brothers and sisters in our global village, is letting go of those resentments really an option? Pray for a heart that forgives. Don't let the “sun go down” on your anger today. Like Paul said, “put it away.” Maybe you have good reason to be angry (like Joseph, which we’ll discuss another day), but let it go. Practicing forgiveness allows us to experience the forgiveness of Christ- and there is no better freedom. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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