Why forgiveness is the hardest part of faith
March 15 / First Friday of Lent
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. ~Ps130:3-4
For me, forgiveness is one of the hardest imperatives of faith. I know that holding onto anger or resentment harms me more than it affects the perceived offender, and I know, too, that not to forgive is to practice self-righteousness and even to play God. But sometimes it is difficult to let go of these wrongs — small offenses like someone cutting in front of me in traffic or larger ones like being betrayed by a friend, judged by a colleague or spoken about unkindly. It is much more satisfying to stack up the grudges, mount my high horse and assume an attitude of moral superiority than it is to get down and ask myself why I expect to be treated like a queen anyway.
Today’s psalm verses hold up God’s forgivingness as an object lesson for all of us, reminding us how miraculously fortunate we are that our Creator doesn’t hold a grudge. Not only does God not keep track of our iniquities, he is the very essence of forgiveness. The verbal formulation is compact, simple, direct in its intent and meaning. The Hebrew reads, literally: “For with you, forgiveness,” the psalmist’s gratitude for God’s mercy radiating out from the verse. In like manner, we are called to incorporate an ethos of mercy into our thoughts and actions, allowing it to govern our responses to slights and hurts of all sizes.
We must forgive sincerely, completely and wholeheartedly, not holding back, not making a false peace and not congratulating ourselves on our magnanimity. In humility and love, we must simply embody and extend to others the complete forgiveness that God gives us. Even to that driver who cut in front of me in traffic yesterday.
Compassionate Lord, I thank you this day that you do not give me what I deserve, and ask that you help me forgive others with all my heart.Amen.
[Editors’ note: This is part of a daily Lenten reflection series. Sign up for our America Today newsletter to receive each reflection every day in your inbox.]