You must therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. . . . For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 5:48-6:1, 14-15)
Forgiveness… It’s a touchy subject. And I don’t see how the above passages make forgiveness any easier. People do really stupid, hurtful things. They are abusive in thought word and deed. We find ourselves (if we are honest) crying to God, “Really God? How can You expect me to forgive that person? Don’t You know the pain that person has caused me?”
The answer is, of course He does. Our Father is aware of each and every thing we go through. He knows all of our hurts and distresses, our broken hearts and mental and physical abuses, all of our lies and deceits and abuses We are imperfect creatures whom our Father has called to perfection. Is this even possible?
Yes. I know what you are probably thinking. We are all sinners. No one is perfect except God. That’s true. But here’s the deal about forgiveness: It’s not about that evil, abusive, lying, adultering, wretched person who hurt you so badly. That person will receive her or his just reward some day. Forgiveness is about the one who forgives. After all, God is not perfect because we have forgiven Him. God is perfect because (therefore?) He forgives us.
Jesus is calling us, in this great sermon, to emulate God. No, we can never be God but we can be like Him. That takes forgiveness on our part. If you have been wronged by someone, what kind of thoughts do you have concerning that person? If you are like the rest of us, these thoughts are not altogether kind. But earlier in this sermon, Jesus told us:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Those are some strong words by the Son of God. Jesus is condemning anger, especially the sort that we hold on to. Obviously, if we are in that kind of state, we are hardly “perfect” and as we learned yesterday, this prevents us from approaching God. How then can we entreat our Father to forgive our sins?
The thing is that Jesus implores us to forgive our brothers (and sisters), not for their sakes, but for ours. How else may we be perfect as He is perfect?He did give His life so that we may be forgiven, after all. What better way, then, is there to emulate our Lord than by forgiving those who have hurt us, no matter how deeply. Impossible? With God, not at all. In fact I think forgiveness is necessary in order to be considered a child of God.