Jesus said, ”For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6: 14-15 (Gospel on Cheese-fare Sunday)
No, we don’t believe in karma, but the Lord teaches us that where forgiveness is concerned, there is definitely a “what goes around comes around” element as it relates to the Lord and our practice of the Christian faith. How can we expect God to forgive us, if we cannot forgive one another?
In the verses that immediately precede the verses quoted above, we find the Lord’s Prayer, in Matthew 6:9-13. In the Lord’s Prayer, when we pray “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we are not only acknowledging that we need to forgive others because God forgives us, but that we will be forgiven in the same way as we forgive others.
If you read this passage in its original Greek, you will see an even higher standard toward others than forgiveness. The Greek word for “forgiveness” is “synhoreses.” The word “afeseos” means “remission;’ or blotting out of our sins. ”Afeseos” means to “forgive AND forget.” In the original Greek, the word, which has been translated “forgive” both in the Lord’s Prayer and in these verses, is the word “afeseos.” So when we read, “if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;’ what that really means is that “if you forgive AND forget the things others have done wrong to you, if you ‘remit’ their sins, then your Heavenly Father will also forgive AND forget your sins, He will blot them out from your record of life.”
It is an almost “natural” tendency to keep score in relationships. We count the good, and when not enough good is happening, sometimes relationships sour. This is where the phrase “what have you done for me lately?” comes to mind. We have an almost insatiable desire to have good done to us, however, when someone has done good to us, just not lately, we forget easily. We tend to remember the bad. I can’t tell you how many times a married couple will come in for counseling and bring their “scorebooks,” remembering transgressions that happened many years in the past. If we expect God not to keep score on us-after all, His scorebook would encompass our entire lives-then we cannot keep score on each other. We are to forgive as we go along, working toward strengthening relationships through forgiveness rather than weakening them through grudges.
How does that work on a practical level? By setting parameters so that forgiveness can be possible. I read an article on marriage which encouraged couples to use the words “ouch” and “oops,” so that when a person says something offensive to the other, rather than an argument ensuing immediately, the other person can say “ouch,” letting the other know that what was said was offensive. The response can be “oops,” recognizing that a wrong turn was made, followed by “may I retract what I said and restate?” This can work in other relationships as well. Giving someone the opportunity to restate something that came out wrong will cut down on a lot of misunderstandings.
Affirming relationships is also helpful where forgiveness is concerned. When a person perceives that a relationship will be lost by “coming clean” on something, they will mitigate or lie or misstate the truth. If relationships are built on a foundation of forgiveness, where people are reassured and reaffirmed that the foundation of the relationship is strong, then it is easier to address faults, exchange forgiveness and retain genuine, honest and healthy relationships.
We tend not to use the word “forgive” very often. We say ‘I’m sorry;’ but how often do we say “Please forgive me”? Even worse, when we do hear the words “forgive me,” do we respond with “whatever,” or “no problem,” instead of saying, “forgiven” or “I forgive you”?
If we are going to live by this commandment of the Lord to forgive one another, we are going to have to bring the word “forgive” into our conversations and the concept of forgiveness into all of our relationship.
In Psalm 130:3, we read, ”If Thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?”
Indeed, if the Lord added up all of our sins against Him, none of us would stand a chance. So, if we need Him not to be keeping a tally of our sins, we need to extend the same to each other. The Lord is easy to entreat and easy to forgive. We must be so as well.
In times of old did Adam sit and cry in sorrow opposite the delights he had in Paradise; his hands upon did his forehead strike, as he said this: O merciful Lord, have mercy on me who have fallen. (Oikos of Cheese-fare Sunday, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be patient and forgiving today!
~Father Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, THE ROAD BACK TO CHRIST: REFLECTIONS on LENT, HOLY WEEK and the RESURRECTION