Today, Jesus talks about forgiveness. [To read the words of the gospel, click here.] If a person hurts me, is it easy to forgive that person? No, it is not easy to forgive. And yet we have the words of Jesus that we need to forgive one another. Every day we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father. The words of the prayer are, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” We want to forgive; we need to forgive, why? Because it benefits us. It benefits us, how, why?
That person hurt me, I feel in myself pain or hate about that person. If I am obsessed by it, I constantly think about how much that person hurt me, how much I hate that person. I am almost addicted to hate. I’m stuck. I seem to be in prison. Who is the person in pain? Me. The person who hurt me does not care. I am the one who is stuck. I am the one in prison, obsessed because I am always remembering my hurt.
If I forgive that person, it means I become free. So the benefit of forgiveness benefits me more than the person who hurt me.
But it is not easy to forgive; it is very difficult. How can I possibly have the courage, the strength to forgive? We need prayer. We need to look at Jesus and ask Him for strength so we can forgive. Look at Jesus on the cross. On the cross Jesus looked at all those people who were there before Him; very many hated him, wanted him dead. He prayed to God the Father, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”
Who is in that crowd causing Jesus to die? You and me. How? Why? Because you and I sin. Jesus is on the cross because of sinners, sinners like you, sinners like me. So when Jesus prays to God His Father, “Forgive them.” He means, “Father, forgive you; forgive me. Forgive us.” We need to pray with the same attitude of Jesus; we know that God has forgiven me so much, that Jesus has forgiven me from the cross. It gives me the courage, the strength to forgive, to have my heart soften, be willing to look at another person and see someone who is weak, imperfect, needs forgiveness, God’s forgiveness and my forgiveness.
How do we learn to forgive? Remember some of the bad things that you have done; know that God forgives you. You are in church, you are praying, because the Lord brought you closer to Him. He forgave you. You did wrong; you separated yourself from God, yes. But God brought you back, welcomed you back, brought you close to His heart again. You are here because the Lord forgave you. He threw His arms around you, embraced you, wants you close to His heart. He has forgiven you, forgiven me. And so now we must learn to forgive others.
It might also help to see the other person who hurt you from a different perspective. That person hurt me, said words or did something to hurt me. Why does he want to hurt someone? Maybe he grew up in a family and no one loved him or rejected him or did not care about him. Maybe he was hurt or abused as a child; maybe he suffered a lot from other people in his life; maybe people insulted him or made him feel low and now he is angry. He wants to attack anybody. He attacks you unfortunately. And yet, inside, he has a lot of pain. Maybe he is drinking too much, maybe he is using drugs, because there is so much pain inside himself that he’s trying to lessen the pain. Sometimes from his pain a person attacks another person, insults another person, hurts you. Perhaps you can see the person from another point of view. You may see someone different, see him as someone in pain, hurting himself or herself. If you know it, then you can see why he causes you or me so much pain. Changing our idea about the person who hurt us is very important.
Let me tell you a story. It is about a soldier in World War I, a long time ago. It was a very brutal war. A young American soldier, 19 years old, was in a battle, fighting very close to the enemy German lines. He jumped into a hole to save himself. Very soon after that, a German soldier jumped into the same hole. The American stabbed him many times. The young German soldier was dying, and the American soldier saw him, a soldier his own age, saw him suffering, dying, gave him some water to drink from his canteen. The German soldier died. The American soldier wondered, who was this person? Someone his own age, not really much different. He looked through the man’s pockets and found some pictures, a picture of a lovely young woman and a little girl. He saw this soldier was also a father, a husband. His family would never see him again. He understood how much he was the same as this German soldier. He was very sorry he killed him, very sorry that there was a war between the two countries. He could see this soldier in a different way, see him not as an enemy to be hated, but as a human person who was afraid, suffering, who had a family and friends. People loved him and he loved people. He saw him, not an enemy but another human person.
The Lord wants us to do the same, look at other people, the people who hurt us and see them in a different way; know the Lord forgives them. So also we must try to forgive them. Ask the Lord for a soft heart to forgive someone who hurt you. The Lord will hear your prayer and give you a soft heart to forgive.