Today is Tuesday, March 17. My name is Gina, and I’m back with you for another time of scripture reading, reflection, and prayer in our 40-day Lent journey. There’s a lot of distractions going on in the world right now, a lot of news to keep up with. But we have an opportunity to stop and recenter our hearts and minds on Jesus, and regain our perspective, focusing on God’s great power and goodness to us and to our world.
Let’s get started!
Theme: Remembering our forgiveness
Scripture: Matthew 18:21–35
The message here is so obvious: We have been forgiven much, and despite that, we are tempted to forgive others far less.
Those of us who have received God’s forgiveness some time ago may start to forget what it is like to be separated from Him by our sin. We may forget the regrets and shame that we lived with. We may forget what it was like to keep doing things we knew were wrong, while feeling powerless to stop (Romans 7:15-20).
When we take forgiveness for granted, we might sometimes lose patience with others who don’t know yet that they can have God’s forgiveness, or that they need it. Or we are shocked and feel betrayed if we are hurt by another believer, intentionally or unintentionally.
We can be like the old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol:” we have abundant riches in forgiveness, but we hoard them with white-knuckled greed instead of lavishly spreading around what we have received.
Make no mistake, forgiveness is not easy. It’s really hard. Cultivating a grudge is easy. True forgiveness takes work. Often, our own fallen nature clutches at the false comfort of our unforgiveness. Like grief, it may be a journey of stages of letting go. But we can choose to move through each stage and not get stuck in one. There may even be times when we think we have finally reached a place of forgiveness with someone, only to realize we have taken it back, and must forgive them all over again. This may be true with the deepest of hurts.
Some people have a difficult time forgiving because it feels that to do so acquits someone who has not experienced justice or punishment for what they have done, or who isn’t sorry. It’s like letting them off the hook.
Forgiveness is about two parties, however. If the person who has caused the hurt is truly repentant, and will act differently in the future, forgiveness sets them free from regret and shame. Forgiveness can lead to reconciliation and healing in the relationship.
For the person who was hurt, forgiveness also sets them free. It’s like breaking chains of anger, hatred and bitterness in their lives. Or it’s like cleansing them from a poison that’s slowly eating them up from the inside.
It’s great news that when we forgive, our forgiveness is not dependent on the person we’re forgiving being sorry for what they’ve done. We can forgive someone who isn’t sorry and doesn’t want our forgiveness. We can also alter our relationship with them to protect ourselves from future hurt if they are not capable of changing, and we can’t have a loving and mutually respectful relationship with them.
Regardless of all this, forgiving others is not optional for believers. In a variety of Bible passages, Jesus clearly states that God only forgives us with the same measure that we forgive others. Read more in Mark 11: 24-25, and Matthew 6:5-7:6.
If we have a hard time forgiving, we might be like that servant in the story, forgetting the grace that God has lavished on us.
Romans 5:8 says, “For when we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God didn’t even wait for us to realize we needed forgiveness, or to ask Him for it. He undertook what was necessary so that He could forgive us and restore our relationship with Him, setting us free from the shackles of regret, shame and sin and giving us a new life in Jesus.
We are reminded in Psalm 103:10-14 of the great lengths God goes to forgive us:
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
Let us remember our forgiveness. For as we remember God’s lavish forgiveness and grace to us, we will be strengthened and filled with the compassion to extend forgiveness to others.
- Do I need to ask God’s forgiveness for anything? Tell Him now that you’re sorry and that you want to change. Ask His forgiveness, and also His power to live in a clean relationship with Him.
- Do I need to forgive someone else for something? Ask the Spirit to empower you with genuine forgiveness, and to help you discern whether you need to talk with the person or people about how they have hurt you and attempt to reconcile.
- Have I done or said anything that I need to ask someone else’s forgiveness for? Ask the Spirit to empower you with the strength and courage to humbly acknowledge what you have done and ask the person’s forgiveness, and to tell them how you will interact with them differently in the future.
Let’s pray as Jesus taught us.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.
Today’s additional scripture passage is from Psalm 25:3-10.