We’ve all done it. And we’ve all had it done to us.
That moment in the midst of an argument or disagreement with someone we love, when suddenly, a past error or hurt is brought out of the vault and rolled out like a red carpet for past offenses, already-settled issues, and the we’ve-been-there-done-that’s to glide along in the spotlight.
And whether or not we are on the giving or receiving end of such an airing of grievances, it stings. It feels a bit like a blind-side, and a lot like a knife in the heart.
When we are the ones bringing up past hurts, we feel instantly guilty for resurrecting issues that have long been laid to rest. When we are the ones being informed of such grudges held tightly by our loved one, we feel very much unforgiven.
During Lent, we focus much of our prayer life and meditations on our own sins, and how the sweet Passion of Our Lord eradicated our guilt and shame. We offer our fasts, our prayers, our giving of alms in reparation for how we’ve hurt the heart of God by turning away from Him. We are even more intentional about avoiding similar sins in the future, and we seek an abundance of grace in the confessional.
In short, we spend most of Lent focusing on how we royally screw up and how the King selflessly absolves us.
The Lord, in His goodness, forgives us our trespasses.
But how are we forgiving those who trespass against us?
If we truly want to follow in the footsteps of Christ, if we sincerely desire to carry His Cross with Him to Calvary, if our hearts are serious about being conformed to His Heart, if we actually want to be forgiven of our offenses, then we have to be willing to forgive the people who wrong us.
This is not an optional part of Christianity, and Jesus doesn’t mince words in the Gospel:
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” - Mt 6:11-12
I’d say, 9 times out of 10, it’s not very difficult for us to obey this caveat. As we age and grow in wisdom and insight, we are more easily able to acknowledge that, yeah, we do stupid things sometimes and hurt people we love unintentionally, and so it’s only right to give people the benefit of the doubt. People lose their tempers, people are dishonest, people act out of their own hurts; we get that, and most of the time, we are quick to overlook these minor offenses. After all, we would want the same treatment, right?
But it’s that 10th time, that trespass, that hurt which cuts us to our core. That sin against us which was so harmful, so shattering, so faith-shaking that we cut off the relationship. I believe the 10th time is what Jesus would like us to examine this Lent.
What past events have scourged us? What have you pushed so far out your mind for survival’s sake that it almost feels like a dream? What forgiveness are you withholding?
What do you say we give that to Jesus?
During Lent, I often think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was arrested. He was praying, being steeped into all the wrong that had ever and would ever be done against Him. He was boiling over with dread of the suffering that awaited Him the next day. He asked to be delivered from it. We don’t call it the Agony in the Garden to be poetic. Jesus was not ignorant of what kind of pain awaited Him, but He willingly accepted it.
To forgive us our sins.
This is insight for us, friends. Forgiveness isn’t pretty. It isn’t easy. Forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply involves humility, thorns, and falls. It involves a sort of death to self in order to offer mercy to someone who needs it.
But then it invites resurrection.
Just as Jesus suffered and perished to forgive us our trespasses and was raised to new life, we are given new life with Him when we model His attitude of mercy.
And this attitude is not one that forgives externally but internally keeps the bitter engines burning. Have you ever noticed in Scripture, once Jesus forgives someone, He never brings it up again? Even Peter, one of Jesus’ closest companions, who denied Him in His hour of greatest need. After Peter repents, Jesus moves on. He doesn’t rehash it, He doesn’t hold on to it, He doesn’t stew over it and later throw it back in Peter’s face. He just forgives.
True forgiveness doesn’t mean that our past hurts won’t still hurt, but the guilt felt by the ones who offended us can be absolved. This kind of death restores and refreshes our life. This takes tons of grace, but it’s grace that Jesus is willing to give freely and in abundance.
Perhaps, for us this Lent, taking up our Cross and following Jesus means forgiving like He forgives. Perhaps it means begging for the help and grace to forgive those who trespass against us, just as we hope to be forgiven.
Olivia lives in Kentucky, where sweet tea and bourbon flow like milk and honey. She is the swooning wife to a nurse-man and the lucky mother to the most joyful son.