What about you and me? How long are we willing to hang on to past offenses when, as disciples of Yeshua, we are commanded to forgive? Forgiveness is a great gift of the Cross; through it, we do not condone wrongdoing, but we do not allow it to have a hold on us. In one of Jesus’ most beloved teachings, the “Lord’s Prayer” (some call it the “Disciple’s Prayer”), the Messiah underscores the importance of this attribute. After including the need to receive and grant forgiveness in the body of the prayer, He reiterates it later in the passage. In Matt. 6:14–15, our resurrected Rabbi admonishes, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
The character of the God of Israel shines through in this exhortation. What a stark contrast from other ideologies in the “neighborhood.” Our good friend Walid Shoebat often refers to this attribute of God when he recounts the story of his journey from Islam to Christianity. Walid was raised in Bethlehem on a steady diet of hatred for all infidels, which meant Jews and Christians. He was shocked when he read the ten-dollar Bible he bought to dissuade his wife from following Jesus. In its pages, he found a God of love who produced righteousness and peace and joy in His followers (Romans 14:17)! Walid turned from terror in the name of Allah to testifying in the Name of this God of the Bible. He found forgiveness for his sins, and now preaches about the power of forgiveness.
This power, available to us when we allow Messiah into our hearts, is an active word. We let God come through us, and He imparts His perspective on our situation. His sacrifice paid the full price for us to live at peace with God and men. The irony in the act of forgiveness is this: we are the ones who benefit from granting it to others! It’s been said, “Holding resentment is like drinking poison hoping it will kill the other person.”
I am grateful that we follow a God who embodies forgiveness and imparts the ability to release it. He is the One who can cause us to see the goodness in life in spite of the hardships we face. I draw strength from Holocaust-era people who experienced darkness beyond anything I have known, and can still be positive. Anne Frank amazingly stated, “I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” Forgiveness helps us to walk in the light of God’s love. May this season be one of releasing the joy of forgiveness through your life!