And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. Matthew 6:12
Over the course of our lives we all experience being hurt by the words and/or actions of those around us. This part of the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to ask God for forgiveness for the ways in which we have sinned and in turn, to forgive those whose words or actions have hurt us. The assumption is that we will receive and give forgiveness. It is not optional. God freely forgives us (Psalm 103:12) and he expects us to the same.
Understanding the nature of forgiveness and keeping short accounts with God and those around us, is part of our journey of faith. If we do not incorporate this aspect of our faith into our lives, we will not fully experience the freedom that life in Christ brings. Jesus said that he came, ‘that they may have life and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10).
While the aim of forgiveness is reconciliation, for a variety of reasons this may not always be achievable. Forgiveness is about change of heart and mind and as such we can only deal with ourselves, we are neither able nor responsible for changing the hearts and minds of those whose behaviour, in word or deed, has adversely impacted us. It is well documented that those who hang on to grudges and fail to engage with the process of forgiveness can experience physical, emotional and spiritual problems – though of course, not all problems are caused by lack of forgiveness!
- What is your experience of and current perspective on God’s forgiveness to you?
- What is your experience of and current perspective on forgiving yourself and others?
- How do you react when you need to give or receive forgiveness? Is it easier to forgive or to be forgiven? Is there anything which prevents you from giving or receiving forgiveness?
- What strategies can we employ to help us move through the process of forgiveness and on, if possible, to reconciliation?
- Reflect on the times people have forgiven you.
- How did the way they did this impact you? What did you find helpful/unhelpful? Could you use any of these ways yourself in forgiving others?
- When forgiveness is difficult how could you try and deal with this?
- Would writing down the incident in your journal and leaving it with God be helpful? Review the situation, record the facts and your reaction.
- Would a guided meditation of the event help you? Imagining the event, watching it unfurl in your mind and then pausing and looking to see where Jesus was in it. Asking him for his perspective and wisdom, to help you let go of the hurt and to move on.
- Would talking to and praying with an understanding and wise friend or church leader help you?
- Psalm 103:3, 10