We ask God to forgive us for our mistakes and we choose to forgive others for wrongs we feel have been committed against us.
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Under law forgiveness is conditioned upon a like spirit in us; under grace we are forgiven for Christ’s sake, and exhorted to forgive because we have been forgiven.
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master commanded him to be sold, with his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ’You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger, his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 KJV
There is a lot being said these days about intentionally developing an “attitude of gratitude.” If we only experience one emotion at a time, and we get to choose, would you choose anger over love, joy, gratitude? When God tells us what He wants from us, He does it out of love for us and wisdom as our Creator. He’s the one who wrote the ‘manual.’
Yet in the world, it can be difficult to develop an attitude of gratitude because others ‘rain on our parade’, hurt us, offend us in many different ways. They may not deserve a kind or thoughtful response rather than our anger or judgment. Often our loved one with a mental illness can make critical comments, nonstop demands and so on. Many days that is the way that I act towards God, yet when I stop and turn my heart to an attitude of gratitude, recognizing what He has done for me (created me, loves me, provides for my daily needs in abundance, I can always find plenty to be grateful for in my day, if I so choose. It’s a discipline that needs training up and intentionality. As I was preparing to write this, I was looking out my front window. To my right were trash cans and recycling waiting to be picked up. To my left was the direction in which my Daughter and Grandson would be coming to my home. I could choose where I focused my eyes and thoughts, on the trash sitting there or on the joy and expectation of seeing my loved ones coming. It was an easy choice for me because I value the love much more than the trash.
Yet some days, my eyes and heart seem to focus on the ‘trash’ and dwell in anger rather than love. As Ann Voskamp wrote in One Thousand Gifts (page 126,127)
“Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love? That Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling than Jesus’ way? Why else get angry? Isn’t it because I think complaining, exasperation, resentment will pound me up into the full life I really want? When I choose—and it is a choice—-to crush joy with bitterness, am I not purposefully choosing to take the way of the Prince of Darkness? ….because I think it is more effective – more expedient -than giving thanks?
How did Jesus do it again? He turned His eyes, “And looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves.” (Matthew 14:19NIV) Always first, the focus. …Contemplative simplicity isn’t a matter of circumstances, it’s a matter of focus.
And our focus is on Jesus and on what He has done for us. Because of this focus, we can practice gratitude, even in the midst of the difficult circumstances, and choose peace, love and trust in God’s promises, even when we’re offended.
And yes, I am hoping that others will do the same in response to those times when I anger them.
In the Story of the Good Samaritan, the man who fell into the hands of the robbers could choose as he was healing, to focus on the robbers and justifiable anger, or on the healing kindness of the Samaritan. Might we too have these same choices in different details. Which will you choose?