One conversation changed my relationship with my mom forever.
“…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
These are hard words that Jesus gives us in the Lord’s Prayer. As Christians, we know we ought to forgive—in fact, we’re commanded to do it. But often it’s easier said than done.
To emphasize the point even more, immediately after saying those words, Jesus has one further, critically important comment to make: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:9–15).
Jesus later clarifies the consequences of unforgiveness after telling a parable about a master who forgave a servant a very large debt. When the servant did not show mercy to another as his master had shown toward him, he was thrown into prison. Jesus then says, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matt. 18:21–35).
Paul encourages believers in Colossae to bear with one another “and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13). And James reminds us that “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
Are you convinced yet that you need to forgive?
I’ve had some trouble with these verses in the past—not because I was unwilling to forgive, but because I seemed unable to forgive. Especially when it came to those who had inflicted deep wounds in my childhood.
As Christians, we understand that if someone apologizes for doing us wrong and asks for forgiveness, we are to forgive them. But that’s a “best case” scenario compared with the all-too-common situation of a family member who has sinned against us, sometimes in childhood when we were young and defenseless, sometimes repeatedly, and they admit no wrongdoing. And we know with almost 100% certainty there will be no apology forthcoming in our lifetime.
Do we still need to forgive? And how do we do that?
I struggled with these questions for years. After I became a Christian, I fervently hoped to hear a sermon on this topic, but to this day I never have. It was a conversation with my mom, an unplanned talk we had many years ago, that opened the gates of forgiveness for me, and healed my heart of the bitterness and resentment surrounding much of my past. I see God’s hand in that conversation in so many ways, and I thank him for setting in place for me a path of understanding and reconciliation before my mom passed away.continue reading