1 John 4:16 (God is love)
1 John 1:5 (God is light)
Matthew 6:14 ESV
Sometimes the best way to begin a subject is to establish a working definition. In this case, what does trespass or trespasses really mean?
The dictionary defines a trespass as entering someone else’s property without permission.
The biblical definition is to sin or make an error or to go to a place when you haven’t been invited to go there.
Scripture tells us God is love and light and in Him there is no darkness (1 John 4:16 and 1 John 1:5).
In this particular case our working definition of trespassing is to sin or err.
In Matthew 6:14 we are told, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
The definition is important in this case.
The Gospel writer (Matthew) tells his readers when you forgive someone for their error or sin, God will forgive you.
I’ve always taken that to mean when I do NOT forgive someone for their trespasses, in turn I will not be forgiven.
Allow me to elaborate on that. I also believe that God is generous and loving. Because God has interacted with me in that manner, I tend to lean toward believing that Matthew was not speaking in broad terms in this case. I think Matthew was being specific.
Let’s say something specific happened between you and another believer. Suppose you spoke harsh words to each other.
Later you regret speaking so harshly. In many cases in my life when I have spoken harsh words to someone, the Spirit comes and urges me to forgive the other person and seek to resolve our differences.
When the Spirit comes and ‘presses in’ I usually cave in and I ask for help. I learned a long time ago that even when I am not being terribly cooperative, I can say to God, I wanna wanna wanna forgive them. (There have been times when there are ten ‘I wanna statements I’ve made). When I want to try to forgive I’ve found the Holy Spirit is always ready to work with me so I can eventually get to the point of actually saying, I forgive.
I believe the act of love and forgiveness comes from God.
The real catch is that we need to be willing to say ‘I wanna’ forgive.
When we are willing to work toward forgiving, the Spirit is ever so willing and loving to help.
It started with my willingness.
That’s how loving and compassionate God is toward His children.
If we are willing to take one very tiny step toward God, God is ever so willing to help us walk.
Even if we are really crippled emotionally toward the person who hurt us, God can help us to walk.
The second thing I’ve found is that I don’t need to FEEL good about the other person. I only need to speak the words, “I forgive them”.
Every time when I utter the words, God accepts them.
That includes when I say it exactly like five year old Deborah said it to my sibling. I can well remember my snotty tone.
“I FORGIVE you!’
Even when my heart isn’t IN it, God accepts it.
At the same time God works with me on my really BAD attitude.
That my friends is how very much God loves His children!
We do not need to feel good about forgiving them. We do not have to want to forgive them. We only need to take one really tiny step toward God and tell the Spirit that we wanna wanna wanna wanna forgive.
But we have to take that teeny tiny step toward God.
God will not force us to forgive.
It HAS to be our choice!
Now, as a parent I wasn’t always so loving about it (you can ask my kids). When they had a problem with one of their siblings I did not give them a choice.
I made them say they were sorry and they forgive their (misguided) sibling. I did that for a reason.
I believed if they were taught to say ‘sorry’ or ‘I forgive you’ even though they didn’t really mean it, the act of forgiveness would be a tiny bit easier for them as adults. That’s because when we learn basic principles very early in life they tend to stick with us.
It was my hope that teaching them to say ‘I forgive’ even when they didn’t feel like forgiving would also teach them that forgiveness is NOT a feeling.
It’s a choice.
It’s as simple as that. We aren’t told in scripture that we need to feel like forgiving our brother. We are told to choose to forgive.
Spiritual Practice: Forgive
Think of someone you are struggling to forgive. Speak the ‘forgive’ word to God. Tell God you forgive them. Or tell God you wanna wanna wanna wanna wanna forgive them. Take the baby step. God will help you to walk.
In God, Deborah