Dear Parish Family,
You may have heard the thoroughly modern saying, forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.
While there is a certain humor to that, there is also an undeniable theological weakness. Far better advice is this: Forgive, and have no enemies, for your eternal salvation depends on it.
Consider that the Lord’s Prayer — the prayer Jesus gives us directly and the prayer that is considered to be one of the most complete and most perfect prayers that a person can pray — asks God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we refuse to forgive others, why should God forgive us? Shouldn’t we, as a matter of justice, be held to the same standard to which we desire to hold others? Shouldn’t we be judged by the same measure by which we ourselves judge?
A refusal to forgive is a refusal to love our neighbor as ourself. Any fool can stay angry; it takes true wisdom to see that we need to forgive others and to be forgiven ourselves. It takes real humility to see that forgiving and being forgiven is vital for our own salvation and for that of our brothers and sisters. God is love; to cling to hate is to drive God away.
True forgiveness comes from reconciliation. We are not built for bitterness and anger; we are built for love and happiness. Letting go of anger allows us to move closer to God.
When we forgive, we let go of old hurts and move toward peace. When we realize that we need to seek forgiveness ourselves, we reconcile with our brothers and sisters who we may have wronged and we grow in wisdom and understanding. We move closer to God, and that should be the goal of each and every one of us.