Seeing the world through a theological lens...
Part 5 in a series on the Lords Prayer
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. -Luke 11:3
God offers us forgiveness. Unconditional, unmerited, unsolicited, forgiveness. Jesus modeled that kind of forgiveness in his life and ministry. There we no strings attached to the forgiveness he granted. Though he encouraged us to repent, to turn our lives around, to do things differently, to see God differently, repentance was not a requirement to being forgiven.
Don't believe me? Even from the cross Jesus offered forgiveness to those who put him there; who were neither sorry nor repentant for doing so. His encouragement to people like the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), to "go and sin no more" did not include an "or else," clause. There is no "or else," when it comes to God's love and forgiveness. God forgives.
That concept in itself may be overwhelming to us, because it is so contrary to what we may have been taught about forgiveness. Many of us learned that we need to pray for forgiveness, and then remain sinless, lest we lose God's favor. This could not be farther from the truth. We pray and ask for forgiveness so that we may move closer to God; that our relationship grows more intimate, more honest. To be able to tell God the things we've done, the hurts we've inflicted on ourselves and others, without fear of condemnation or rejection, also helps us to see ourselves in a different light. It helps us become more like the people God has designed us to be. It helps us become more like Jesus.
It Is this kind of forgiveness that we are to grant to one another. That thought also might be overwhelming; most of us need gesture of repentance from the one who wronged us before we even consider forgiving them, and there are a lot of reasons why. Yet, if we are to really receive God's forgiveness, unconditional, unmerited, unsolicited, then we need to work toward forgiveness of others in this same way. (As a not so small aside, forgiving others includes forgiving ourselves... sometimes that is the most difficult of all!)
It's not that God won't forgive us If we don't forgive others (or ourselves). It's that we are unable to receive God's forgiveness if we harbor grudges, hurt, judgement, and hatred inside. They act as a wall around our hearts, blocking us from living in the freedom of God's love that comes through forgiveness.
I'm not saying It's easy. I'm not saying that we may not have to seek help in learning to forgive those who have offended us, (or ourselves) or hurt us or the ones we love. Yet, we have the chance, an opportunity to do just that through God's help and the help of others we trust. Forgiveness opens the door to really living in the light of Christ; to experiencing all that God has for us!
We can forgive, because God first forgives us.
Peace and forgiveness to you this day,
If you have questions, or if you need help in working through forgiveness, please don't hesitate to contact me.