by Brent Moody
We are instructed to forgive others because Christ first forgave us. We were forgiven of our sins when Christ died on the cross, and as Christians who have received this forgiveness we should be eager to forgive those who have sinned against us. Jesus confirms this in the Lord’s Prayer when he taught us to pray: “…and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) If we are unable to extend forgiveness to others, have we truly been transformed by the grace of God?
It is challenging when we have been hurt by someone and it’s tempting to want revenge, but doing so would only hurt our relationship with God. This is seen on the next line of the Lord’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13) When we are unable to forgive someone we are distancing ourselves from God and allowing the devil to step in. Ephesians 4:26-27 states, “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger and give opportunity to the devil.” It is alright to be angry (for not all anger is sin), but take it to the Lord in prayer and do not carry it into your next day because that would give opportunity to the devil.
God instructs us to forgive because He doesn’t want us to have a life of bondage and hatred. In practicing full forgiveness, as Christ forgives us, we are able to live a life of peace and joy.
Every Sunday Anglican churches “pass the peace” before going to the altar to receive eucharist. Sharing peace is an ancient Christian tradition and is a time for us to forgive and ask for forgiveness with those around us before receiving Christ’s gift. We are actively declaring our peace with one another (by shaking hands and saying, “peace be with you”) because Jesus told us to in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24) We should take this practice beyond Sundays and into our daily lives. Each time we extend forgiveness, we are pointing others to a much greater love of Christ.