More on Forgiveness

Yesterday I completed a short sermon series on our responsibility as disciples of Jesus to forgive others who sin against us.  I started the sermon with the following video and quote from Mary Karen Read, one of the victims of the Virgina Tech Massacre.

This struggle of forgiveness was made even more poignant when a sister and good friend came forward asking for prayers in dealing with the struggle for forgiveness for an act ever bit as heinous as that committed in Blacksburg, only smaller in scope.  The message of Matthew 18 is clear-- in order for us to be forgiven, we must be willing to forgive.  To refuse to forgive others is to fail to recognize all that God has forgiven in us.

Forgiveness like this makes no earthly sense, because it comes from above.  Corrie ten Boom was confronted with being asked to forgive one of the guards that had tormented her while in a Nazi death camp.  She tried to take his hand, but her arm would not move; her heart was filled with such anger, resentment and hatred for this man that represented what had killed her family. She writes this--

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.