The Need To Forgive

Unless we forgive, we will not be forgiven. God’s blessings await those who are ready to forgive.

Jesus taught us how to pray. He said, ”Pray then in this way. 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.” (Mt. 6:9-13)

Immediately after teaching this prayer, Jesus gives a stern warning in the next two verses. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Mt. 6: 14-15. He emphasizes the same thing in Mark 11 verse 25. “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

As Christians, we pray innumerable times. But let us examine ourselves if we are following the advice of the Lord. According to him each time before we pray, no matter it is the morning prayer, the family prayer in the evening, the bedtime prayer, the prayers in the church, we are supposed to do this self-examination and forgive if we have any grudge against anyone. This is a pre-condition for starting our prayer.

When do we feel grudge against anyone? When we think that someone has done something against us. And we are supposed to forgive them. But that is not enough. “So when you are offering gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt. 5:23-24)

Now the situation in Mk 11, verse 25 and Mt. 5 verse 23 is different. In the former, the situation is that we have some grudge against someone because we feel that he/she has done something against us. Well, we have forgiven him/her. But the latter situation is just opposite. Here we do not have any grudge against anyone; rather someone has some grudge against us. That means he or she feels that we have done something against him/her. In such a situation neither should a priest say mass, nor should a layman participate in the mass.

“Leave your gift then before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” But how many of us are following this instruction of Jesus? Feelings of revenge and hatred make us blind to our own mistakes. Our thoughts and words will be obsessed with the mistakes of those against whom we keep grudge.

When we try to find others’ mistakes we tend to belittle our own mistakes. We try to put a veil over our mistakes. Thus we become prejudiced. Besides, if we go on endlessly observing others’ mistakes, we too will be tempted to commit the same mistakes.

Mother Theresa says that we must forgive and forget. She emphasizes on forgetting others’ mistakes. According to her, that is the solution for all the wars, violence and tensions in this world. If we do not forgive and forget others’ mistakes, they will have a negative impact upon us. So we have to pray for them. That will give us peace. Further, we will be able to love them. Jesus showed us the way: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk. 23: 24)

We often believe that our life is controlled by our enemy. But we must know that our life is controlled by none other than God. He is the driver of our vehicle. He is the captain of our ship. He is steering the boat of our life. He is our shepherd. He alone is our ruler, our king. If anyone does anything against us, the result is but temporary. We should not be upset by the storm created by it. We must have firm faith in Jesus who is sleeping in the boat. “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4: 32)

Many a time we are ready to forgive others if they apologize to us. We want our enemies to come to us and say, “I am sorry.” We may be waiting to hear these words from our enemies and we are ready to forgive. But our ego does not let us go and ask forgiveness from others. Here Jesus shows the example. As St. Paul says, when we were enemies, Jesus came to us to reconcile with us.

We do not lose anything by forgiving except our ego, our false pride. Whatever we lose by forgiving, God will give us a hundredfold. Whatever Christ lost by dying on the cross, God gave him back many folds by giving him the glory of the resurrection because he forgave. There is a promise of God behind every forgiving.

Forgiveness is not a loss; it is a gain. It is not a defeat; it is a victory. It is not an end: it is a beginning.

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (LK 6:27-31) “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great.” (LK 6:35)

Now we need not feel sad or depressed when we do not get back what we have given. God who is faithful in His promises will reward us.

Forgiving and reconciling with those who have inflicted serious physical, mental, financial or emotional injuries upon us is one of the most difficult things to do. How can we love our enemies, how can we do ‘good’ to those who hate us, how can we bless those who curse us and how can we pray for those who abuse us? Is it not against human nature? Is it not swimming against the current? Yes, but that is what Christ wants us to do, we being his followers.

Have you ever thought why Jesus cursed the fig tree? Obviously He cursed it because there were no fruits on it. But the gospel writer clearly states that it was not the season of figs. Still Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered. Yes, Jesus wants us to go against our human nature and he wants us to swim against the current. Exactly that is what He wants us to do when he asks us to forgive our enemies and do good to those who hate us.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even the sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from you whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” (Lk 6: 32-34)

Can you see your life partner as innocent? Lying on the cross Jesus saw all of us as innocent. “For they do not know what they do.” The lesson is: Do not pass judgment. Let us deal with others not on the basis of rule and law, but on the basis of kindness and understanding.

A person who dies in hatred and with grudge against others is sure to perish. That will be the worst kind of death.

Forgiveness is not a new idea introduced by Jesus. “The vengeful will face the Lord’s vengeance, for he keeps a strict account of their sins. Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Does anyone harbor anger against another, and expect healing from the Lord? If one has no mercy towards another like himself, can he then seek pardon for his sins? (Sirach 28: 1-4)

– – – written by Georgekutty K.V.