Forgiveness… granting it is liberation, withholding it–bondage. Asking for forgiveness is not weakness, but strength. There is such a paradox in the Christian life, but not just for the Christian, for all of humanity. Through the emptying of self, we can be the most filled and fulfilled.
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“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”Matthew 18:21-22
So often, we hold onto things–to pains, to hurts. It can become easy to feed and those feelings can fester, creating bitterness and consuming us to our core. Forgiveness does not mean continually putting oneself in harm’s way, but instead it is seeing oneself as a person who has sinned against God and extending the forgiveness He has offered and extending that same forgiveness to others. (Matthew 18:21-35).
“Christ prayed for those that crucified Him: ‘Father, count not this sin against them; they know not what they do.’ Archdeacon Stephen prayed for those who stoned him so that the Lord would not judge this sin against them. And so we, if we wish to retain grace, must pray for our enemies. If you do not find pity on a sinner who will suffer in flames, then you do not carry the grace of the Holy Spirit, but rather an evil spirit; and while you yet live, you must free yourself from his clutches through repentance.”— St. Silouan the Athonite
When I look at the ways people have hurt me–sinned against me, it can be easy to feel that they do not deserve forgiveness, especially if I do not feel that I have put the same pains and hurts into the world. It can be easy to see my brother as the greatest sinner and not myself, but once we stop looking at life and morality through a curved grading system–once we stop comparing ourselves to others and only look at our offenses against God and only compare ourselves to the life of Christ, we can see our own sins and how gracious God is to forgive. A true gratitude for His forgiveness extends that forgiveness unto others. Every offense we commit against another is also an offense against God and the beautiful image of Himself He has etched into every one of us.
“Do not allow the spark of discord and enmity to smolder. The longer you wait, the more the enemy tries to cause confusion among you. Be watchful, so that he does not mock you. Humility destroys all of his schemes.”+ St. Macarius of Optina, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina
Let us be quick to forgive and quick to seek forgiveness. There is nothing that better emulates the very heart of God, for forgiveness is true love in action.
Shorter version posted originally on my old blog Homemaking Simplified March 12, 2019.