Sunday, October 25, 2015
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” ― C.S. Lewis
What I don’t understand is why Christians say the Bible is the Word of God and especially the words of Christ which in some Bibles are printed in the color red. I call myself a “red letter” Christian because I am one of those who believe that the Bible speaks the truth of God and when Christ speaks—I listen. Who decided that the Gospel of Matthew wasn’t important or wasn’t a real part of the Bible? Why do so many completely ignore what Christ taught, lived, and preached in Matthew? I have heard some scholars wish that the Sermon on the Mount had not been included because it is too hard to live. When I accepted Christ as my Savior and picked up my cross to follow Him, it included my belief that what He said was God speaking. So, why do so many think that forgiveness is just a recommendation? It is treated as a nice thing to do, but not really necessary. If the words of Christ (those in red) are true and are in fact God speaking, how can we possibly think that forgiveness is optional? Let me offer this scripture, Matthew 6: 14 and 15—"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (emphasis added by me, but this is the text) This was spoken to His disciples immediately after teaching them what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.” How can we accept verse 14 and then completely ignore verse 15? Folks, forgiveness is not optional—not for someone who believes that Christ is the Son of God and that the Bible is His word. I looked up 22 different translations, and in every single one of them, verse 15 says the same thing, “if you don’t forgive—you will not be forgiven.” I believe that verse 15 is one of the linch pins of the New Testament. We MUST forgive, we don’t get to pretend that verse 15 refers to something that would be nice if we did it, but it isn’t a mandate. Wrong! It is a mandate, words from the Christ Himself. It isn’t easy, I will never say it is, but it is what we have to do. It is very freeing. I used to have group counseling sessions with recently divorced singles, and the one thing they all agreed upon was that forgiving their former spouse was the most liberating and peace giving thing that they did. I taught them to pray for that spouse, no matter how horrible he or she was, because Christ taught us to pray for our enemies as well. If you want to know that peace that passes all understanding—learn to forgive every single person or group that has caused you pain, harm, or scares you. Fewer ulcers, lower blood pressure, less stress, calm reactions to stress—all that from learning to forgive and doing it. It is NOT an option. You have to kill all the hate within you and replace it with forgiveness. Now, forgiveness doesn’t mean amnesty, it doesn’t mean that logical consequences don’t follow. I will forgive my son for breaking the window of my car, but he will pay to replace it. Ethel Kennedy traveled to the prison holding the man who murdered her husband to forgive him in person. She didn’t ask for him to be released, but she released herself from the poison of resentment and hate. If you think you’re a Christian, check it by looking at how often and how consistently you forgive. It is in the Word of God, I am not making this up. This is not a commentary on the Gospel—it IS the Gospel. Yes, it is hard, but nothing has given me peace and calmed my heart like forgiving those who have sinned against me, and there have been many. I also ask forgiveness of all those whom I have hurt, intentionally or unintentionally. I, too am flawed and Jesus knew it. So, I have to forgive over and over, and, if you claim to be a Christian, so do you.