The headline on a Barna Group report out this past April (based on interviews conducted between April and August of 2018) was “1 in 4 Practicing Christians Struggles to Forgive Someone”. The details of that report indicated that 23% of practicing Christians (defined as those Christians who said that their faith is very important in their lives and who had attended a worship service in the preceding month) reported that they could identify someone whom they could not forgive, and of those only 28% said that they wished they could forgive that person. So, more than 16 out of 100 practicing Christians identified someone they could not forgive and did not even want to forgive them!
The Lord Jesus Christ certainly wants us to reconcile with our brothers and sisters, especially before we approach His altar (Matthew 5:23-24). He gives us “steps” to do so (Matthew 18:15-20), and in a parable He lays out consequences for our not doing so, including essentially the Heavenly Father’s not forgiving us (Matthew 18:21-35). So, I often describe as dangerous our praying in the Lord’s Prayer for God to forgive us (or, presumably, to not forgive us) “as” we forgive (or, presumably, not forgive) those who trespass against us (Matthew 6:12; confer Luke 11:4).
In two of our recent Sunday morning Adult Bible Classes we discussed the “ease” with which God in Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected for all, forgives us (see Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26). For an all-powerful God, in a sense nothing is difficult, although God’s forgiving people certainly came at the cost of the sacrifice of the innocent Savior Who took on our sin in order to forgive us and ultimately heal our diseases.
On our own, we cannot forgive others. But, as we are forgiven by God, we are transformed to where, even if we struggle to forgive those who have sinned against us, we at least want to do so. And, thanks be to God that His perfect forgiveness of us who repent and trust Him to forgive us includes His forgiving our imperfect forgiveness of others.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.