AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US
by Sam Ashoo
During this week of Lent I will unfold a true story of a wounded friend. If you have not yet read my previous blog posts, please start there.
Prayer was difficult. Our Lord’s prayer asks “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Surely this sin was a “trespass,” but it was not against me. It was against my friend. One who was vulnerable, victimized, and permanently changed. Is our prayer meant for that circumstance? I prayed for relief, for alleviation of suffering, for rejuvenation, for the restoration of joy. But I did not see it. I only saw pain, disappointment and disbelief…at every step. I was disappointed at the workings of man and I was disappointed at the response of the church. We sat in lament, with great remorse that such a thing had occurred. My friend questioned his faith, his response to God’s call, his conviction for God’s word, and so much more. Great remorse.
We believe that the Lord not only hears us, but cries with us. John 11:35 tells us "Jesus wept" at the great pain caused by the death of Lazarus. He feels our suffering, he sees the pain, he lives our brokenness. And then he calls us to forgive in situations where it is the furthest from our minds. Even nailed to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 How is this possible?
Jesus speaks of forgiveness multiple times in Matthew 18. He speaks of a servant forgiven a great debt, but who refused to show similar forgiveness for a smaller debt owed to him. Jesus tells us the master was angry and judged the servant for failing to show the same forgiveness the master had shown him (Matthew 18-23-32). He speaks to Peter of forgiving our brothers and sisters “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). He even gives us instruction on confronting our brothers and sisters when they have sinned against us (Matthew 18:15-17). Throughout all this, he dwells on our responsibility to forgive.
Yet my response was not what has been commanded. Each day brought swells and ebbs of anger. I dealt with this anger by running, both literally and figuratively. Running helped me combat the anger physically, but mental fatigue weakened my resolve to keep it at bay. Forgiving others is a requirement of receiving the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness of my own sin. How could I receive my God’s grace and mercy and be reconciled with my creator if I could not forgive sin committed by others? Even a sin that wasn't committed against me, but against another. There is no easy answer here. Time brought slow healing.