As we forgive those who
trespass against us…
(Removing Our Hindrances, Part II)
Removing the hindrances that block the coming of Christ involves more than just seeking forgiveness. It means giving forgiveness, too. And that can be pretty tough sometimes. As Christians we often think that unless punishments are meted out swiftly and severely our communities will turn into modern day Sodoms & Gomorrahs.
In America this fear fuels our continuation of the death penalty, world record incarceration rates, and overflowing court dockets. There is not a lot of forgiveness going around—to put it mildly. Christians know (or should know) that these actions run contrary to the teachings of Jesus and our faith. But we justify our behavior by revisiting Old Testament laws.
An “eye for an eye” makes so much better sense, because it is like a balancing of the ledger books. And it feels a lot better, too. Because it satisfies our desire for revenge. But playing tit for tat doesn’t balance our offenses before God. The book of life is not a ledger of rights vs. wrongs; it is a story of forgiveness and hope. And unless we forgive others, the forgiveness we ask of the Father will not be given.1 For it has, in fact, never been heard.
To better explain this, let’s return to the parable of water. We already know that water follows the path of least resistance. It also has another defining characteristic: it seeks its own level. This means that when water flows into a container (be it a cup, lake, or pool) it rises to a height that is level all around. Likewise, the Holy Spirit seeks its own level within of us. And its height is largely determined by our ability to forgive others, just as God forgives us.2
When we refuse to grant forgiveness, the water of the Holy Spirit dries to dust—the same dust that Jesus writes in when the angry crowd seeks to stone the adulteress.3 The dust we shuffle through daily, when we demand that others pay for their offenses and failures to live up to our expectations.
In our anxiousness for retribution, we forget that ultimately every offender pays for the offense that matters most: trespassing against the Holy Spirit.4 And the payment levied by God is that person’s continued separation from his kingdom and a life more abundant.
We must remember that an individual’s spiritual journey is long and hard, and no journey is the same. When we lose patience and are quick to judge others, we should recall how “slow to learn”5 the apostles were. Yet slow to learn doesn’t mean can’t learn. Christ’s wisdom is a seed that grows differently in every person. Even God does not know how and when it will grow inside us.6 But grow it will if we have the faith to let the will of the Father run its course, and don’t act as hindrances in its way.
It might seem impossible to forgive someone who has wronged us “seventy times seven times”.7 Because it feels like we are letting the offender off the hook. But actually we are leaving ourselves of the hook; releasing ourselves from the anger, frustration, disappointment, and superiority that often accompany our judgments.
A few chapters ago, we mentioned that we can take…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- Whenever you stand up to pray, forgive any grievance that you have against anyone, that your Father who is in heaven also may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” – Mark 11:25–26 [↩]
- Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37 [↩]
- They said to the Master: “This woman was taken in the very act of adultery. 5 Now, the law of Moses says that we must stone her. What do you say?” 6 They asked this to tempt Jesus, so that later they may have something to accuse him with. But Jesus only stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground. 7 When they continued asking, he stood up and said: “He that among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her.” 8 And again he stopped down and wrote on the ground. 9 And those which heard it, being stricken by their own conscience, left one by one, beginning with the eldest unto the last. John 8:4–9 [↩]
- I tell you that all will be forgiven every sin and slander; but slander against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. – Matthew 12:31 [↩]
- The disciples were utterly amazed, 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, their minds being slow to learn. – Mark 6:51-52 [↩]
- This is what the kingdom of God is like: like a farmer who has scattered seed on the ground, 27 And then sleeps by night and rises by day, while the seed is shooting up and growing, he knows not how. Mark 4:26-27 [↩]
- Peter came up, and said to Jesus: “Master, how often am I to forgive others when they wrong me? As many as seven times?” 22 But Jesus answered: “Not seven times, but ‘seventy times seven.’ – Matthew 18:21-22 [↩]