Medicine for Emotional Health

“If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” -- Matthew 6:15 WE HOLD GRUDGES, we seek retribution, and we blame others … and end up hurting ourselves! It is my observation that people in general, and Christians in particular, render at most, only flippant import to Jesus’ teachings in the verse above. You’d recognize that the verse is part of the so-called Lord’s Prayer. And remember, He was, at their request, teaching them how to pray. “If you do not forgive…” I think forgiveness is not one of mankind’s virtues, maybe it never has been. In old pagan and Jewish cultures, to forgive was considered weak-spirited. The IBSE notes: “Even in the Old Testament, man's forgiveness of his fellow-man is infrequently mentioned. In every case the one asking forgiveness is in a position of subservience, and is petitioning for that to which he has no just right.” Jesus gave the popular summing-up of the law (but not its exact words) when he preached His Sermon on the Mount; saying, "You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’”. That certainly represents the attitude and understanding of the people on the teaching of Scripture. Jesus, however, taught that forgiveness is a duty. No limit can be set to the extent of forgiveness (“up to seventy times seven”) and it must be granted without reserve. Jesus’ point is: there isn’t any wrong so gross or so often repeated that it is beyond forgiveness. To Him an unforgiving spirit is one of the most heinous of sins. This is the offense which God will not forgive as we see in Matthew 6:15 above. We fail to realize or care to admit that nearly every problem in life stems from an unwillingness to forgive someone. We hold grudges, seek retribution, and blame others! We end up hurting our relationships with God and people, and impair - severely - our ability to live the Christian life the way it was meant to be lived. Must we forgive when it’s the other person’s fault? How should we handle repeat offenses? What if we feel we can’t forgive because we’ve been hurt so badly? Why is forgiveness so difficult? In answer, I can only point to God’s example as the Supreme Forgiver. We’d know true freedom, peace, and emotional healing when we learn to forgive in the way He forgives. Conditions? O yes, of course there are conditions! These have to be fulfilled for forgiveness to be granted. Forgiveness is one part of a mutual relationship, the other part is repentance of the offender. God does not forgive without repentance, nor is it required of man. The effect of forgiveness is to restore to its former state the relationship which was broken by sin. Such a restoration requires the cooperation of both parties. There must be both a granting and an acceptance of the forgiveness. Sincere, deep-felt sorrow for the wrong which works repentance is the condition of mind which insures the acceptance of the forgiveness. Hence, Jesus commands forgiveness when the offender turns again, saying, “I repent.” It was this state of mind which led the father joyfully to welcome the Prodigal son before he even gave utterance to his newly formed purpose. Learning forgiveness is good medicine. Pastor Robert Chew