September 12, 2020

Contagious Forgiveness

Matthew 6:9-15

“If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

—  Matthew 6:14-15

Jesus’ teaching here at the end of the Lord’s Prayer might be confusing. It almost sounds as if we have to earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others. But we also know that through faith in Jesus, we are already forgiven by God (Acts 2:38; Romans 3-8). So we need a different kind of thinking here.

Think of an old kitchen sponge that hasn’t been used for a long time. When you put it under the tap, the water runs right over the sponge. But if you set the sponge in a bucket of ­water for a few minutes, it softens and becomes usable again.

Our hearts can be like that too. When we hold onto resentments and bitterness, nursing our anger, we can become as hard as a rock, and God’s grace for us will be like water running over a rock. It doesn’t soak in.

But when we are open to forgiving others, we become soft like a moistened sponge. The Lord’s deep grace soaks in and saturates our hearts, and we become available to share his grace. Just as a wet sponge moistens other things when it touches them, we can share grace, helping to wipe others’ dirt away as we forgive others. As Colossians 3:13 puts it, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Dying to our accumulated resentment, anger, and bitterness softens our hearts to receive God’s amazing grace and to share it freely with others.

Soak my heart, Lord, in the depths of your abundant grace and mercy, that I may overflow with grace and mercy for others. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

About the author — Syd Hielema

Syd Hielema serves the Christian Reformed Church in North America as director of a ministry project called Connections II. He has also served with Faith Formation Ministries, as a professor of theology and youth ministry at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, and as a chaplain and professor at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ontario. Syd has been married to Evelyn for 43 years, and they enjoy bird watching near their home in Ancaster.

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