"For is you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." Matt. 6:14
"And when he saw their faith, he said, 'Man your sins are forgiven you.'" Luke 5:20
"Jesus said, 'Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And the divided up his clothes by casting lots."
Forgiveness is such an important concept in Christianity, that one cannot really have Christianity without it. As Christians we are dependent upon the forgiveness of God for sins, and in turn we are called to forgive those who have sinned against us. The verses above reflect just how Christ felt about forgiveness. He commanded it of His followers and he gave while on the cross. In recent days I have been thinking about forgiveness in my thoughts two questions have emerged, 1. Has culture at large lost the importance of forgiveness? 2. What would the world look like if Christians were more forgiving in family life, social media, and towards other Christians? Since becoming a pastor I have been much more involved in social media in an attempt network, and to stay informed, and as a result I have read a lot of comments, blogs, articles etc... I have seen people get into fights in the comment sections, I have seen responses that Christians give that honor Christ, and I have seen comments that make wish the person hadn't said they were a Christian. One thing I have not seen however is a lot of forgiveness. In fact in the culture at large I wonder if we have quietly dismissed forgiveness or only forgive when it is absolutely necessary. Of course in secular culture the concept of forgiveness is long gone. Someone can say something 30 years ago, and it could brought against them today, and not amount of apologies will ever make it better. People have to be so careful about what they and what they support because of this lack of mercy and forgiveness prevalent in secular culture. Is the same true for us Christians? I'm afraid when it comes to social media it can be. I have seen well meaning people show very little forgiveness when a pastor makes a mistake, and gives a wrong address for verse or perhaps uses a bad analogy that inadvertently teaches heresy rather than orthodoxy. This lack of forgiveness can also seen when Pastors, apologists, or lay Christians push back against the culture of death, there is can be more an attitude of take no prisoners rather than one of forgiveness and mercy. I believe that this is not demonstrating a Christ like attitude, and this is a blind spot for many Christians today. This not to say that this a blind spot for all Christians, but I do think it is for many, and I know it has been one for me. The reason why forgiveness has been put on the back burner for so many people is because forgiveness requires us to give up something that we don't want to give up and that is our anger. That is what forgiveness is, to stop being angry or resentful to an individual or individuals that have wronged you. This is loss of anger is not just that the dust has settled and you are not angry at the moment, but that you no longer have anger towards that person for their action against you. Anger is a powerful emotion, and it makes us feel powerful when we have it. The idea of just giving up our angry makes us feel weak, especially if we forgive a person before they have asked us for forgiveness. We must keep in mind however why it is important for us to forgive. The first reason is because our forgiveness of others points us and other people to the forgiveness that we have received from God. As Christians we have received God's amazing forgiveness for all of the times that we offend Him, all of the times that we sin, and so when we forgive others we are pointing ourselves back to that forgiveness we first received. The second reason is that holding a grudge is like holding a container of poison with a faulty lid. Your intention is to unleash it on the one that offended you, but it ends up doing damage to you. Holding a grudge hardens the heart and makes one bitter. I have known people who would no forgive and can see how their hard hearts effect every aspect of their life. It is not a pretty picture and so not forgiving someone will in the end only hurt you more than all the anger you would pour out on your offender would hurt them. Because of the reality of the fall people are going to sin, and thus people in some way are going to offend and hurt us, just as we offend and hurt other people. The way to move forward is to follow in the foot steps of our savior Jesus Christ and forgive as we have been forgiven. What do you think? Do you have a story of forgiveness? Comment below and let me know.