The Road to Forgiveness

Mark 11:24, 25. “I tell you you can pray for anything, and if you believe you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so your father in heaven will forgive your sins too.”

When I was still a new Christian the Lord began to deal with me about unforgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the basic rungs of the ladder on our journey to become more like Jesus, and I had still not put my foot on that rung.

road-to-foregivenessWe had a neighbor who was making our lives miserable. The Lord showed me that I had pray for him. I was incredulous. “What!? Me pray for him?” That did not seem fair to me, but the Lord kept after me. Finally, I started praying for him through gritted teeth. “Lord save him”, I prayed. Little by little it got easier. Eventually I started to enjoy praying for him. I started to pray for his family’s finances, his business, his health and his family’s salvation.

Then a funny thing happened. I stopped being mad at him. Anger and intercessory prayer can’t coexist at the same time. I started feeling compassion for him and his family. After a time I forgave him completely, because through God’s grace I felt love in my heart for him and his family. “Whew! Great!” I thought, “now that I’ve learned that lesson I will not need to learn that again”.  Right.

But I was wrong. Over the years I met many broken people. Broken people say and do broken things.  The Lord gave me lots of opportunities to pray, bless and do good to those broken people He put in my path.  Learning to forgive took me time and plenty of chances to practice.

We know we were forgiven of all the things we did and said wrong when we repented and made Jesus the Lord of our lives, but look what it says in Matthew 6:14 “if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your father will not forgive your sins.” Whoa! And how many times have we prayed “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others” in the “Our Father” and never really noticed it. So by refusing to forgive someone else we are actually binding the Lord’s forgiveness of our sins. That’s a good reason to forgive quickly.

I know it can be hard. Especially when we have been deeply hurt or hurt over a long period of time, or hurt by someone who should have been our protector, or someone in church. But the good news is that the Lord has given us the way to forgiveness “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who hurt you”.

Okay, why should we want to pray for someone who is our enemy or do good to them or bless them? After all, weren’t we the ones who were injured? But the Lord doesn’t see it that way. On the cross he prayed “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34. He was praying for the very people who were crucifying Him. He was praying for the people who ambushed him, the people who accused Him falsely, the ones who pounded nails into His hands and feet.  He showed us the way. Now we need to follow him by praying for those who have hurt us, blessing and doing good to them when we can. That’s the road to forgiveness.  Let’s be as determined as Jesus was.

My difficult neighbor and his family are now a born again Christians. Jesus is Lord!