Jesus had much to say about forgiveness. A call for forgiveness is embedded in the most popular prayer ever placed on the lips of those who pursue God’s help:
Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
There is little question that the forgiveness being spoken of in the prayer is conditional. In other words, God will forgive us if we in turn will forgive others. We tend to separate the two acts of forgiveness in the prayer. On one hand we seek God’s
forgiveness and on the other we are urged to forgive others of their offenses committed against us. What limit is there to this?
Accidental infractions are heroically easy to forgive, but the bigger things, well, as we feel in the right so we may believe that gives us permission to hold onto our anger. We remember Jesus words to Peter in response to his question:
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Luke 17:2-4 NAB)Of course the greatest moment of teaching comes to us from the cross in a moment of unimaginable grace. Jesus has done everything to prepare his disciples for this moment. All the miracles witness to their carrying this eternally in their hearts. They could hear the good thief ask for pardon and receive it, the impossible task in the hands of the author of peace and forgiveness. How many times, almost every day, do we turn away from someone who is a brother, a sister and we do not forgive them? We wonder why we feel cheated of the grace and love that mercy bring. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.