Today is Good Friday; the day we humbly and gratefully remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Why did Jesus die? The shedding of blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus paid the ultimate price so that you and I could be forgiven.
Matthew 18:21-22 gives us the account of Peter asking Jesus how many times he must forgive someone who sins against him. I’m sure Peter felt pretty magnanimous when he suggested seven times. However, Jesus responded with a surprising figure – seventy times seven. Say what? I’m supposed to forgive someone 490 times? Really? Yes. Really.
Have you ever been offended by something your pastor said? Have you ever been hurt, disappointed, angered, or frustrated by a person or persons related to your church or a church activity?
One of the best ways to care for your pastor is to forgive. Forgive your pastor. Forgive members of the congregation. Forgive the church in general. There is no greater blessing in a pastor’s life than to have a church full of healthy people who are quick to forgive and who extend grace and mercy to others.
Unforgiveness hinders our ability to enter into fellowship with other believers. I know of an old gentleman who showed up at his church week after week, year after year. He would slip into the same pew at the back of the church just as the song service ended and slip out just before the final prayer. He was not there to support the church though. He was there to protest. He was angry with certain decisions that had been made years earlier. It did not involve moral failure or misappropriation of funds. Rather, it had to do with use of space in the church foyer (I am not making this up). To my knowledge he has not been able to get past the hurt and unforgiveness and is registering his protests to this day.
Unforgiveness can turn us into bitter, angry people. Several years ago I was invited to join a mid-week Bible study in the home of a woman from a church other than my own. The leader of the group had an issue with the pastor’s wife and rather than refer to her by name called her “that woman”. Her contempt was clearly evident. Needless to say I did not return.
Unforgiveness eats away at the very core of our being. It makes us sick. It infects others. It is a cancer. We know this. Yet, it isn’t always easy to forgive. Let me rephrase that. It isn’t always easy to feel forgiveness. But forgiveness, like love, is a choice. The feelings may not immediately follow the action and that’s okay. I’ve often rephrased Mark 9:24 and prayed, “Lord, I forgive. Now help me feel forgiveness.” It is a process. I’ve found in due time the feelings come and with them comes a lightening of my heart and spirit. Unforgiveness is a heavy weight to carry around.
Today, Good Friday, is a good day to lay any past hurt or heavy burden of unforgiveness at the foot of the cross.