“Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”          – Mark 11:25

In Stormie O’Martian’s “Power of a Praying Woman”, she addresses forgiveness in the 3rd chapter.  Forgiveness is a timely subject for me personally, for our church as we work through a difficult situation, and for this holiday season as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. 

Stormie’s insights prompted a few of my own.  I realized that there are people I need to forgive so that I can move past hurts and insults they’ve caused.  I thought I was doing the right thing by overlooking those things and showing them grace.  I’ve prayed for those people and found my heart softened by my prayers, but it never occured to me to forgive them.  I must have been waiting for them to ask for forgiveness. That probably wouldn’t happen, though, because I don’t think they realize how their words and actions affected me – or if they do, they don’t care.  Either way, a request for forgiveness is not likely to come from them, so I must take the initiative and forgive them for my own sake and sanity. 

Stormie points out that forgiveness does not excuse or condone wrongful actions.  For me, forgiveness releases resentment and hurt from our hearts so that we can host more positive thoughts and feelings and be more receptive and responsive to God.  Harboring ill will toward others, even if covered by attempts of love and grace, will eat away at us and lead us to negative and sometimes destructive thoughts and behaviors. 

I was surprised to discover there are people I need to forgive.  Although these people offended me and, I never thought to myself that I should forgive them.  This realization only came to me when God spoke through the words I was reading.  God will speak to us in prayer, too.  Stormie suggests asking God in prayer to reveal to you those whom you need to forgive. 

The Bible’s greatest command for us is to love others and love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  This love will be compromised if hindered by unforgiveness.  Therefore, our efforts to be pleasing to God will be compromised, too. 

Forgiveness isn’t always an easy thing to do.  It can mean allowing God to peel away layers that have built up over time, thus exposing tender parts that have been guarded and maybe even buried.  But it’s ok.  Those layers can be oppressive and burdensome.  It is freeing to let them go! 

We need to offer forgiveness to all who have offended us or angered us, even if we do not agree with them or condone what they say or stand for.   Forgiving others doesn’t mean you are excusing the behaviors or words that upset you.  It means you’ll let the hurt and anger go and not hold grudges against your offenders.  Our former pastor used to say to let go of grudges because they’re not doing anything to the other person, but they’re killing those who hold onto them. 

Stormie reminds us that forgiveness is a constant choice we have to make.  It is something we have to choose to do and often we must forgive the same person many times, and we must choose to forgive whether we like it or not.   She suggests beginning with those closest to us, beginning with our parents. 

How about your spouse?  Has he or she said or done anything that needs your forgiveness?  Are you holding onto irritations or resentments with other family members?   Church family?  Friends?  Co-workers?  Neighbors? 

Stormie quotes this scripture from Matthew 18:32-35:  “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his own heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses”.  It reminds me of the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

We enter into the Christmas season to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  The night and events of his birth are truly to be celebrated, but it’s His death that make them so meaningful.  You see, He lived to forgive.  He died so that you could be forgiven of ALL your sins.  How pathetic of us not to forgive others in return. 

I wrote a poem one Christmas Eve titled, “He Lived to Forgive”.  It was published in last year’s December issue of P31 Woman magazine.  I’d like to share it with you now. 

‘Tis the day before Christmas as my mind drifts to ponder.

I retreat from my busyness and reflect on the wonder

Of the gift that God gave us when He sent us His Son

To offer forgiveness and God’s grace to everyone

Who believes Christ is Savior who took all our sins,

And still lives today; through our hearts He enters in.

He brought us salvation from our own sinful ways

And all that He asks of us today,

Is that we pay it forward, sharing Christ’s love with all,

Including those who have wronged us or caused us to fall.

He lived to forgive, so shouldn’t we do the same?

Love and forgive others.  Let go of past blame.

Then we will receive the peace and joy Jesus gives

And the world will be better when through us He lives!

Please let me exclaim through these words that I write,

Merry CHRISTmas to ALL and through Him a blessed life.

                                                  – Renee Myers    Christmas Eve 2005

 CHRISTmas blessings to all,