This is another prayer from The Pilgrim’s Guide which participants receive during their Via de Cristo weekend. Every time I read through it I am humbled to see my own sin and God’s gracious forgiveness.
It is hard for me, O God to confess my sins and not merely repeat well-worn phrases with which I try to cover my real guilt.
I am a sinner. Why is it so difficult for me to see this, Lord? Why am I so bothered with a few things I do wrong while I think nothing of my lack of trust in you? Why do I feel guilty when I do not live up to my own standards but hardly blush when I fail you? Why do I imitate those who are unholy instead of following the Christ? I must confess it is because I am weak in the face of temptations, and without you I am nothing.
All I can do is plead mercy, O God. I cannot even hold up the honesty and fullness of my confession. All I can do is trust your love in Jesus Christ. I surely cannot trust my love for you or Him. Hear me for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lived for me and died that in Him I might live.
Forgive me, Father! Forgive me even this, my poor confession. I need your forgiveness for Christ’s sake. Amen
Before we end this month, I wanted to post a message and a song that’s been pulling at my heart. We all have crisis’s in our lives where we question God. What has happened just doesn’t make sense and we hurt and cry.
Many times I have to remember Romans 8:28 : And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [Emphasis mine]
Sometimes we just have to pray, Thy Will Be Done. We live in a fallen world. We are going to hurt and bad thing are going to happen. We can only kneel at the foot of the cross and say Thy Will Be Done.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Matthew 5:38-41
In this verse, Jesus is telling us not to seek revenge, but to forgive and even do good to the person who has wronged us. I guess I have always looked at that as my Christian “duty.” Something I was required to do instead of what I really wanted to do. Recently I decided I am thinking about it the wrong way. What if I made it gospel instead of law? (Lutherans love to talk about the difference). This kind of situation gives me a chance to show God’s grace to someone.
My husband loves to tell a story about our good friend, Gary. Gary and his family had moved to a house they were renting. The first evening they were there, the renter of the other half of the house came home and Gary went out to greet him and introduce himself. His neighbor responded with curses and a basic message of “leave me alone.” Gary’s response? “Gee, you must have had a terrible day, what’s wrong?” The two became friends because Gary saw his neighbor’s rudeness as an opportunity to share God’s love. He let him see Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance in the actions of another person.
How often do I let this same opportunity pass?
Have you ever thought about what a world without forgiveness would look like? Here are some of my ideas:
- We’d constantly be at war with other nations
- Different ethnic groups would be at odds with each other all the time
- You think a 50% divorce rate is bad — try 100%!
- No more family reunions!
- Churches and community organizations would close up — so long to all the good things they do
- Parents would abandon their teenagers
- Teachers would give up on their students
- Sports events would end up in fist fights
- We’d all die alone
- After death, what would we look forward to? Everlasting condemnation and separation from God
I wouldn’t want a world like that, would you?
When we talk about forgiveness you think about all the people in your life that have hurt you in the past and how you should forgive them. Then there is forgiving the people in your life, as you walk through, that will need forgiveness immediately. This is just a way of life, and a way of life that we are called to walk by our Lord Jesus.
But I think that there are many of us that are walking around in Unforgiveness, even if we try to work out the pain of the past and in the day-to-day. The Unforgiveness I’m speaking of is forgiving ourselves for past sins.
We’re taught that if we bring our sins to the Lord Jesus and confess them to Him, He will forgive us all of our sins. No argument there. This is basic Christianity 101. But how many of us hide our past? How many of us keep sins and strife in our heart and we don’t share it with the Lord or a counselor or pastor at our church. How many of us don’t want these sins to see the light ever, ever again? We think we are hiding them in our heart so no one will see what we were or where we have come from. The Lord Jesus sees them and in the meantime these sins still effect every aspect of our lives, bleeding out at the most horrible times. We’ll mask these effects by saying, “Oh, that’s just the way I am” and try to brush off the horrible-ness of the action.
We’ll take these things to the Lord, ask for forgiveness and then turn around and take them back! We think this is something the Lord could never forgive, or that we aren’t worthy and we walk away while the Lord is there, waiting and loving us. It’s so hard to learn that the Lord Jesus loves us and will forgive ALL of our sins. We need to learn to take it ALL to Him and lay it at His feet and LEAVE it there.
I’m writing about this because this is one thing that I struggle with. Bringing the really, really secret parts of myself to the Lord and LEAVING it there. Being free of the garbage that has built up over all these years. Yes, I read the confession every Sunday at church. Yes, I hear the pastor saying that I’m now forgiven of all my sins. Wow, is it so hard to make it a reality. My head knowledge about forgiveness is all there. I truly need to learn to leave it at my Saviour’s feet and walk away feeling lighter.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22
What are the strongest relationships in our world? Best friend, spouse, parent, child, neighbor, just to name a few. Most of us have several of these close bonds in life, with each being a little bit different and with each bond changing over time. The one thing that all of these relationships have in common is that within each relationship we have probably forgiven, and been forgiven, over and over again for different offenses throughout the years.
In the daily movement of life, I think that we forget how often forgiveness is taking place between all of our close friends and family. I might wake up grumpy and get angry that my husband has (again) forgotten to take out the trash, or become aggrieved when my close friend at work makes a comment that hurts my feelings. I like to read this passage in the book of Mathew when I need a reminder of the bigger picture. Christ wants for us to be loving, accepting, and forgiving of each other in all of our relationships. And in fact, when it comes right down to it, I think almost everyone would say that true love and acceptance in this world is all that we are really searching for within our relationships. So the day will come and go, I will forget my current grievances and forgive my friends, and hope that they will do the same for me.
Losing a loved one is the hardest thing we have to endure in our lives, but the pain and grief becomes unfathomable when someone else takes the life of someone you love. Matthew West has spent the last few years collecting
stories from his fans to compile the beautiful songs on his past records. Renee is the mother of a daughter that was killed by a drunk driver and inspired Matthew’s latest song Forgiveness. Renee demonstrates forgiveness at it’s finest as she not only forgave
her daughter’s killer, but fought to get his prison sentence reduced.
If you would like more stories and songs on forgiveness, get Matthew West’s book: Forgiveness: Overcoming the Impossible.