Sunday, March 12, 2017

How to be Liberated by Grace

Matthew 6:14-15 (NRSV): Being Liberated
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Forgiveness is daunting, and for many victims, forgiveness seems impossible. Violations of our trust and love by others, unfortunately, can become insurmountable hurdles to forgiveness. All forms of forgiveness, however -- from the extreme to the everyday -- are made possible through God’s grace. And our acceptance of God’s grace to forgive transforms and liberates us.
When it comes to forgiveness, God’s will for us is clear: He desires that we forgive others as he forgives us: “[B]ut if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). Forgiveness, then, is a two-way street. In order to be forgiven, we must accept God’s grace and forgive others. This is a challenge, but forgiving others can be compared to forgiving ourselves.
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains that forgiveness of others is synonymous with the forgiveness of the self. He explains that we love our own person but despise our sinful acts. Using this logic, Lewis explains how we can forgive others even when getting past the “cruelty and treachery” of the violation seems impossible:
Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them [the "cruelty and treachery" of others that warrant our forgiveness]. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again. (117)
Forgiveness of others, then, does not reduce the horror of the offense nor does it make it “okay” in any way. But, according to Lewis, forgiveness is an act of self will: We hope for their healing, cure, and humanity.
Forgiveness, finally, equips us to be authentic agents of God’s love. As we go out to serve our neighbor in every face we meet this week, let us remember God’s transformative, healing grace and radiate that to others.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, Jesus teaches us that to be forgiven we have to first be willing to forgive. Lord, grant us the grace to forgive others and, in turn, to be liberated by your healing and forgiveness. Amen.