To forgive somebody is to say, one way or another, “You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, though I make no guarantee that I will be able to forget what you have done, and though we may both carry scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend.”
To accept forgiveness means to admit that you have done something unspeakable that needs to be forgiven, and thus both parties must swallow the same thing: their pride.
This seems to explain what Jesus means when he says to God, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Jesus is not saying that God’s forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others. In the first place, forgiveness that’s conditional isn’t really forgiveness at all, just fair warning; and in the second place, our un-forgiving-ness is among those things about us which we need to have God forgive us most. What Jesus is apparently saying is that pride which keeps us from forgiving is the same pride which keeps us from accepting forgiveness, and will God please help us do something about it.
When somebody you’ve wronged forgives you, you are spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience.
When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you’re spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride.
For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each other’s presence.
1. Read – Read the text (usually short, 2-4 verses, but could be longer). Read it slowly, looking for a word or phrase that stands out to you.
2. Reflect – Read a second time, meditating on the word or phrase and what it is saying to you. This is not a time to “study” the text, or look for meaning outside of what it means for you at that moment. How is God nudging you? Who are you in the text? How have you been moved or convicted by it?
3. Respond – Once you have ruminated and processed whatever meaning it had for you, respond in prayer. It may be thanksgiving, or in confession, or petition etc.
4. Rest – Sit in silence with God. Let go. Empty yourself of all your busy thoughts and allow God to love you just as you are in that moment.