“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6: 14-15 NKJV)
Every morning, I pray the Lord’s Prayer/Model Prayer, and say “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
But today, I started to question the nature of forgiveness. I admit that I have been deeply hurt that those whom I call friends and even family (with only a few exceptions) have not reached out even to offer a brief condolence at this time of mourning following my father’s recent death, resulting in a deep sense of loneliness and isolation.
I say I “forgive” them, meaning I suppose, that I do not hold their apparent lack of sympathy/compassion against them. I can in part explain in many ways why no one has reached out to see how I am doing, even if they care. The business of life, the desire not to intrude on potentially awkward social moments or invade privacy, the lack of knowledge on what to say, the desire to give a respectful space, etc., can all result in the lack of contact. And I mean it, I think. I will not hold it against them. But the sense of isolation and loneliness...and some bitterness...remains.
But then why do I think I am even entitled to their concern or compassion? Who am I that I can expect or demand such? How often have I reached out to those I know are mourning and grieving, suffering or alone? Or more importantly, how often have I not reached out to them? Why should they care for me when I have demonstrated by my inaction that I do not care for them? How self-righteous, how presumptuous, how arrogant am I! O, how much my own sin is revealed; O, the lack of love I have shown; “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NKJV).
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!
But then, how much more precious is this, then, that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NKJV)! Love undeserved, forgiveness unwarranted, mercy unmeasurable.
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 7:12 NKJV)
Is the nature of forgiveness such that I give up my supposed claims to others’ actions or intentions because I recognize that I deserve no good from anyone, so that I cannot condemn anyone for any treatment that I receive? That I give thanks for good and accept the bad as my “just desserts”? Are gratitude and thanksgiving necessary for forgiveness (not in a legal sense, but in a process and pragmatic way)?
How dare I feel bitter? How dare I feel hurt? How dare I demand so much more than I give when God through Christ has given us all?
To my friends and those as family, forgive me...
“Lord, if I have sinned in word or deed, in mind or spirit, forgive me.
Lord, deliver me from all distress, ignorance, forgetfulness, laziness and stony hardness of heart.
Lord, deliver me from all temptations and spiritual abandonment.
Lord, enlighten my heart which has been darkened by evil desire.
Lord, being human, I sin; but You, being God, have mercy on me...
Lord, grant me sincere confession of my thoughts.
Lord, grant me humility, deliverance from my own will and obedience.
Lord, grant me patience, forbearance and meekness.
Lord, implant in me Your holy fear, the source of all blessings.
Lord, enable me to love You with all my soul, my mind and my heart; and my neighbor as myself.” - St. John Chrysostom (Excerpt From My Orthodox Prayer Book, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
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