We’ve all heard the phrase “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” It is part of our “human condition,” the condition that we live in after the Fall, that we all make errors. Even though sin is a “choice,” no one forces us to sin, we live in a sinful world and even the strongest person will eventually succumb to some sin. Some people sin less than others. We should always strive to not sin, but a consequence of living in a sinful world is that eventually we will all sin. And people will sin against us. Even the most devout Christian is the victim of the sins of others.
One of the choices we are faced with each day is the choice to forgive or not. I couldn’t venture to guess how many sins I commit each day. If I have even sinful thoughts, those are sins. Even if these sinful thoughts are not known or directed at others, they are still sins against God. When I say or do unkind things to others, I am sinning against them. And when others direct unkind thoughts or actions to me, they are sinning against me. We all live in this sinful state of broken relationships with God and with one another.
The only way to mend a broken relationship is with forgiveness. We ask God for forgiveness and He offers it freely. We are supposed to ask others for forgiveness as well when we’ve done wrong. And we are supposed to forgive as God forgives, freely. When we hold grudges against other people, it makes broken relationships even more broken. It sometimes irreparably breaks relationships.
Any relationship we have that we wish to be a long term relationship—with a spouse, with a child, with a friend, in a job situation—can only survive if there is forgiveness. I have been married for many years. If I commit even one sin against my wife each week, add 52 weeks times over twenty-six years we have been married and there would be well over one thousand sins on our record. And believe me, I’m sure I sin more often than once a week. I’ve served in Tampa for over 17 years. If I do one thing wrong a year to each of 1,000 parishioners, that’s 17,000 transgressions and it’s probably a lot more than that. If we keep score and don’t forgive, then no relationship can succeed or survive for really any amount of time.
The choice to forgive belongs to each person. It cannot be forced or coerced. When two people are at odds, one can choose to forgive the other, and at times, the other will not exchange the forgiveness. This, too, cannot be forced. For the person who forgives another, or who asks for forgiveness from another, these actions are liberating. For the person who cannot forgive, the inability to forgive can be paralyzing. If John and Fred have wronged each other, if John forgives Fred and asks Fred for forgiveness, John is freed even if Fred still wrongs him and even if Fred doesn’t forgive him. On the other hand, Fred is paralyzed spiritually because cannot forgive or doesn’t want to forgive. I can’t have any relationship in my life if I cannot forgive or be forgiven. So, forgiveness is a choice that I strive to continually improve on, because with forgiveness there is freedom and with freedom, redemption. For as we read in Psalm 130:7: For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plenteous redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all His iniquities. Our redemption is tied to our ability and willingness to forgive. Christ forgave us from the Cross. It is incumbent on us to forgive one another. But forgiveness is a choice.
Lord, I know that I am not perfect. I sin every day in some way against You and against others. Please forgive me when I sin against You or against my neighbor. Give me the courage to seek genuine reconciliation with my neighbor. Help me to forgive those who wrong me. Help me to move on from disappointments in relationships. Through Your grace, help me to restore and heal relationships (bring to pray some that come to mind). Amen.
Seek forgiveness today! Offer forgiveness today!