Monthly Reflection – September 2014
Dear all, I hope this month’s reflection finds you well?
Sorry seems to be the hardest word.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me- Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Matthew 18: 21-35.
In recent weeks and months I have encountered instances where good friends of mine have been hurt or betrayed by people that they trusted or relied- whether it is friends or family. I have over the years suffered and caused hurt to those around me and I know that ‘sorry’ can truly be the hardest word to say and the hardest word to hear. Earlier this year I read a book by Robin Oake called ‘Father Forgive’ which centres around Robin’s very public forgiveness of the man who stabbed his son Stephen Oake QGM to death during a Special Branch operation in Manchester. The question Robin poses is a difficult one ‘How do we forgive the unforgivable?’ It is well worth a read!
The phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in the Bible. However, there are numerous scriptures commanding us to “forgive one another” (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32). A Christian who does not forgive can reap bitterness and the loss of eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:14-15; 2 John 1:8). Forgiveness is a decision of the will. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to forgive. This frees the forgiving one from the past. The offender may not desire forgiveness and may not change (Matthew 5:44). Ideally, the offender will seek reconciliation, but if not, the one wronged should still make known his decision to forgive.
In one sense, it is impossible to truly forget sins that have been committed against us. We cannot selectively “delete” events from our memory- we simply do not have that ability! The Bible states that God does not “remember” our wickedness (Hebrews 8:12). God is all-knowing; he knows that we have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). However, having forgiven us, he treats us as if the sin had not occurred. If we belong to Him through faith in Christ, God does not hold our sins against us. In that sense we must try our best to “forgive and forget when we in turn are ‘wronged’.” If we forgive someone, we must act as if that sin had never occurred. We remember the sin, but we live as if we did not remember it. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”.
The hard thing is that often forgiveness does not lead to reconciliation; however without forgiveness and the willingness to say sorry I can guarantee that there will be only more pain and hurt!
Paul tells us in Romans 12:21 (NIV), “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” There’s a lot of evil in this world. You don’t overcome it by criticizing it. You overcome it with good.
In many of the conflicts going on around the world and in political divides in our own nation we see that the differences that people have are deep rooted in generations of mistrust and polarised opinions where it is easier to fight each other than to forgive! In fiction we also see stories where very often the reason for the feud is never mentioned – Romeo and Juliet for example- ‘Two households, both alike in dignity (In fair Verona, where we lay our scene), From ancient grudge break to new mutiny’
To hold a grudge and to not forgive only leads to more pain- when we choose to forgive we are not only doing what Jesus taught us to do but we are setting ourselves free!
So be wise and don’t expect to forget when things hurt us- but we can and must forgive!
Dear Lord, help us to have truly forgiving Hearts. Help us to remember that the ultimate act of forgiveness was made freely when you gave your life for us even though we don’t deserve it. Help us to recognise when we need to say sorry and Lord where we have suffered pain help us to move past it.