But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:15

Difficult Words

Tongue twisters can be fun. 

Some classics include, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”, and “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair, Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?”

My personal favorite is, “If you notice this notice, you will notice that this notice is not worth noticing”. Brilliant!

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most difficult tongue twister to date is: “The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick”.  Try saying that 10 times fast.

One of the most difficult phrases in the English language isn’t a tongue twister. It’s the words, “I forgive you.” This phrase is rather simple phonetically, but saying them is often quite challenging.

Why is it so difficult to say, “I forgive you”?  Because sin hurts. It hurts when you have been lied to by a family member. It hurts when your trusted coworker breaks your trust. It hurts when you have been used or manipulated. It hurts when you are betrayed by someone you thought was your friend. It hurts when sharp ridicule with no constructive intention cuts you to the heart. And when you have been hurt deeply by sin, you retaliate by withholding forgiveness. It’s sinful human nature. Forgiveness is not natural.

Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Does Jesus mean his forgiveness is conditional? Am I only forgiven if I forgive?  Not at all. You are not forgiven because you forgive. Your forgiveness isn’t tied to any action of your own. It’s only tied to Jesus’ actions. Rather, you forgive because you are forgiven. Forgiving others is evidence of faith in God’s forgiveness to you. And, unwillingness to forgive others is evidence of a lack of faith in God’s forgiveness to you. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). 

Our sinful condition is serious. We are sinful from the moment of conception. That sin shows up in our evil thoughts, hurtful words and selfish actions. We don’t just “do” sin we ARE sin. God condemns not just the sin we do, but the sin we are by nature. Without help, we are doomed from our very first heartbeat. 

When you realize the utter despair of your sin, you treasure the depth of God’s forgiveness all the more. God doesn’t just forgive me for my sinful thoughts, words, and actions – he forgives me for what I am. Jesus’ blood doesn’t just cover my sins, it covers my sinfulness. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

When you reflect on your sin and God’s forgiveness in Jesus, you find the strength and the motivation to forgive others who sin against you. This isn’t easy. It takes hard work. That’s why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” We need God’s help doing this!  And God provides the help we need in Scripture’s message of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

“I forgive you.” Those are difficult words. But empowered by God’s forgiveness in Jesus you can speak them with love and sincerity.

Forgive much, because you are forgiven much. 

Who do you need to forgive?

 

Written by Brent R. Bitter, Staff Minister