Thursday, May 7, 2009

Let It Go

Matthew 6:12, 14-15
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
"For if you forgive men their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

When my grandchildren were babies, they went through the same developmental stages as most, where they practiced their motor skills. Somewhere after the first four months or so, my youngest grandchild's favorite activity was honing his fine motor skills by grasping a desired object and then hurling it over the side of his high chair or crib. He seemed to have great fun releasing everything from a cup of juice, to toys, clothing, food etc., and letting it go. It was something profound to him in the release, although it was not as much fun to parents, sissy or Nana after the first twenty retrievals. Countless times we picked up, much to his delight. The more we picked up the cast away item, the more encouraged he was to laughingly toss it away. Getting rid of as many objects as possible, before those slated for pick-up stopped playing the game, seemed to be the idea. How could letting go be so edifying, so soul satisfying?

In the model prayer found in Matthew, Jesus tells us to forgive the people who have hurt or offended us; to share in the joy of letting go. Can you imagine letting someone off the hook upon which we have them ensnared? Yet, that is exactly what forgiveness is. It is to give up the desire to punish someone, to pardon for wrongs done, to cancel a debt owed.

I can almost hear a chorus of voices saying, "But you don't know what they did to me. I am not going to let them get away with that!" But perhaps these considerations may be helpful as you decide whether or not to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean that you were not really wounded. It does not mean that you lost and they won. It does not mean that you are weak. In fact, it takes more moral strength to let go of bitterness than to hold on. It does not mean that they were somehow right to do what they did and you were wrong to feel pain or anger. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you will get instant amnesia and forget everything that happened or that you will immediately feel better.

But, a wise friend once told me that "acid corrodes the vessel that houses it", and more likely than not, your unforgiving spirit hurts you more than it hurts them. In some cases, the person is not even aware that you have been distant or resentful because of them. They may have just thought that you had a nasty disposition. Little did they know that you could turn your sunny personality on for others and off for them. They may not have known that you were hurt and may not have cared. Meanwhile, unforgiveness was causing you to lose sleep, get migraines, and develop digestive issues. It may have colored your relationships with others, as the darkness reserved for the offender spilled over onto everyone and everything else in its path. Unforgiveness steals joy,and peace. It interferes with our growth and maturity. Nothing good comes from holding on to the toxic waste of unforgiveness.

Now I know that most have struggled with feelings of unforgiveness at some time or another. I realize that some of you may have been through some heavy and outrageous things at the hands of others. For you it may have been abuse, slander, betrayal by friends, or discrimination by your school or employer. For others it may have been abandonment by a parent or spouse. In some counties war loosed enemies who thought it not wrong to physically torture. The list of wicked, unkind acts goes on and on. I believe that you may have suffered much and I wish that it had not happened.

Yet, I hear the voice of Jesus saying forgive your debtors-forgive those who have trespassed against you. This passage reminds us that we are forgiven and we are to forgive others. In fact, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." While we were still offensive to the Father, He sent a remedy for our condition. He sent His Son, Our Lord, to endure betrayal, desertion by friends, public humiliation and death by torture. He did it for us, in spite of us. He forgave us and let us go...debt cancelled.

Jesus tells us, essentially, that if we think forgiveness is a great idea for anyone (us), then it is a great idea for everyone (those who offend us). In fact verses 14 and 15 tell us that our relationship with the Father is impacted by our unwillingness to forgive.

Paul echoes Jesus later in Ephesians 4:31-32 saying, "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."

Perhaps you'll join me in this prayer, "Lord help me to forgive the one who hurt me. (You insert their name.)I am so grateful that You are so full of grace and mercy in your dealings toward me. Help me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to pass that mercy on to others. Lord, release me from pain, hurt and disappointment as I now refuse to hold on to anger. Fill me with the joy that only comes as I forgive and let go.


Pastor Yolanda Lehman said...

Thank you for this word. Lord, help me to let it all go! Now, that'll preach!

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