Jesus is consistent in calling his disciples to forgive. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus asks the Heavenly Father to forgive “as we forgive” others. This becomes a rather informative phrase for those of us who are not quick to forgive others, or even consistent in who we forgive or what we forgive.
Do we forgive those closest to us more often than those on the margins of our acquaintance? Do we forgive the privileged more than the underprivileged? Do we forgive the child more readily than the adult? And what do we forgive — a debt? a tresspass? a sin? a minor slight? a major upheaval? These are not easy to answer, and may vary in our experience.
One easily engages in verbal barbs with a colleague over something rather ridiculous, without thought of forgiving them. Why? The same occurs in traffic when someone’s impulsive driving causes us frustration. Do we forgive then? And what of the mistakes that cost a spouse, a child, a loved one, an employee, an employer time or money or dignity? Do we forgive these?
“Forgive us… as we forgive…”
All sins, debts, and trespasses encroach on someone else’s life journey; they affect more than just the sinner, debtor, or trespasser. In some cases, the effect is enormous, in others light. The Lord’s prayer teaches us that our forgiveness of small misdeeds allows God and others to forgive our small misdeeds. Forgiveness of larger misdeeds allows God and others to forgive our large misdeeds. Notice that the prayer of forgiveness rises to God first with a covenantal caveat. Inasmuch as we are forgiven by God, so we must forgive others. For those of us baptized for the remission of all our sins — original and personal — we see in the Lord’s Prayer the need for continual conversion of heart and mind in a spirit in an attitude of forgiveness. Otherwise, our so-called salvation is no salvation at all and puts into question our relationship to God and his Christ.
The call to forgiveness is a call to reconciliation through love. We forgive because we love. Without active love, there is no possibility of forgiveness. Beyond this comes a catharsis borne of that love: When we forgive, we release the burden of the misdeed weighing on our minds. We give ourselves the right and privilege to be free of its torment — and pass the right and privilege on to others to also be free from the guilt and shame of the misdeed. May we all learn to forgive each other more readily.