“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” – Matthew 6:12
Most probably we are missing mercy from God in our daily lives, because we have been unwilling to forgive just as He has asked us to do, in order that His forgiveness of us might be mercifully granted. C.S. Lewis writes in his The Weight of Glory: “To forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son–how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where WE stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”
Forgiveness is not easy because it has to be done over and over again. The disciples asked the Lord how often they must forgive those who had offended or done something to them. His answer was seventy times seven, or simply, always, over and over. Yet, how often does God have to forgive you? The problem is that we often have a better estimate of ourselves than is warranted. We are unwilling to practice the first beatitude of Jesus’ sermon to us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
We think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Humility of character does not course through our veins. We are more apt to be grievously offended by the actions of others than to practice a forgiving spirit. For if we genuinely forgive without waiting for repentance from the offending party, which may never come, the Lord says we will be happy, not bitter or angry. But we have a very difficult time believing Him. So his mercy is withheld, and that is most unfortunate.
His words could not be more direct: “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.” And in Mark, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father who also is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Very clear, but also in us, very forgettable. We simply forget His words in the midst of the crucible of life. But remembering His words and doing them is the mark of a true disciple. To those who are not genuine disciples He says, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
Only by practicing poverty of your own spirit, which is a truth about everyone’s’ nature, can we even approach an attitude of forgiveness of others. The first thing that should come to mind as offenses occur against you is, there am I, this is what I do to others, or, there, but for the grace and mercy of God, go I. Can you forgive and forget? For forgetting is the true test of authentic forgiveness. Otherwise, you did not truly forgive.
Only in this fashion will God be merciful to you. If you do not think God’s mercy to you is important, think again. His mercy is all you ever need. It is everything. There is no greater sense of happiness in your spirit than to always go forth in life under the intimate mercy of your eternal God. “He is your constant refuge and underneath you are His everlasting arms.”
“When all thy mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view I’m lost, in wonder, love and praise.”
(First verse of Joseph Addison’s hymn, “When All Thy Mercies, O My God,” 1712)
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