Jesus taught: “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15) This lesson came back to me recently when two women shared their intersecting stories on different days in my home under the safety of my roof.
The first woman, young in age and young in faith, was afraid she had disappointed God. She has not forgiven someone in her life. When she has thought about the offense she suffered, she has become so anxious, she abruptly closed the door on the memories and did not do the work of forgiveness. What she has wanted to do, she has been unable to do. I assured her that God knows her heart and he knows her flesh. I said that he knows she can’t forgive without his power. I challenged her to cry out for him to supply the power she needs to forgive. I shared my opinion. Since then, I have wondered whether I told her God’s truth. Was my counsel consistent with Scripture?
The second woman, middle in age and old in faith, said God had done a mighty work of healing in her life. The healing has resulted in her being able to forgive the mother of her step sister – the woman who took her father away from her mother and broke up her family. This heartache was a long time ago. The healing has been a long, arduous journey with Jesus to the destination of an unlikely friendship and collaboration with the woman who hurt her so deeply.
I cherish these women and their stories, and I wonder. How do we forgive? How does God’s healing free us to forgive? How do we appropriate God’s power to forgive?