January 20, 2021
The Step We Trip On
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14–15).
Friend to Friend:
It was a Saturday college football game and I was doing what I like doing best—not watching the game but observing people. My seat was on the end of a long row of Carolina blue bleachers, and I had a steady flow of fans walking past me up and down the concrete steps for two-and-a-half hours. After a while, I noticed that four out of five people walking up the stands tripped on the step right in front of me and to my left. At halftime, I measured and discovered that the step was about a quarter-inch higher than the others. So, the people tripped.
Forgiveness is like that step. It’s just a little bit higher than anything else we practice as Christians. Unfortunately, it’s the one step a lot of us seem to trip on the most. But we can do it. Just pick up those determined feet a little bit higher, and let’s keep going.
The high step of forgiveness is at the very core of the Christian faith and a foundational theme in Jesus’ teachings. Here are just a few examples:
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14–15)
When Jesus was with the disciples at the last supper, he offered them wine and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
Throughout Old Testament times, God’s people offered sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins, but their sacrifices were never enough—every new sin required another sacrifice. Jesus died as the final sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. His sacrifice was enough. I love how author and pastor Brian Zahnd describes Jesus’ forgiveness as “grace that takes the blame, covers the shame, and removes the stain and the endless cycle of revenge.”
But we aren’t merely recipients of forgiving grace through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross; we are also called to be givers of that forgiving grace. As C. S. Lewis said, “To be Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
In teaching his followers to forgive, Jesus identified no exceptions—no loopholes that let us off the hook from forgiving. He mentioned no crime too heinous, no abuse too perverse, no act too vile to warrant holding on to unforgiveness. Just yesterday, I received a letter from a man on death row. He had beaten his brother to death. “Can God forgive even me?” he asked. Yes, he can.
When we make the costly choice to forgive, we not only live out a foundational tenet of our faith, we also put a stop to the endless cycle of revenge, releasing the burden of bitterness, and making the world beautiful through grace.
I want to be a part of that. I think you do too.
Father, I’ll admit, I’ve tripped on the step of forgiveness. Help me to pick my spiritual feet up just a little higher to forgive others quickly and completely. Help me to not trip over my own sin of unforgiveness but walk the path without stumbling.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Read and ponder these extra verses on forgiveness today. In one sentence, summarize what Jesus was teaching. John 20:23; Matthew 18:21-22; Matthew 26:27-29
Many of us feel broken. Our mistakes, the pain others have caused us, and circumstances outside our control taunt us every day, though we long to turn a new page. My new book, When You Don’t Like Your Story, challenges us to ask: What if God doesn’t want us to rip out our difficult stories but repurpose them for good?
What has been done to you and what has been done through you does not disqualify you from God’s best for your life. It qualifies you for an even greater purpose than you would have ever known without it. In fact, the worst parts of your story might just be what God uses the most. So sink deep into God’s life-changing truths. The next chapter is just beginning. Includes an in-depth Bible study for individuals and groups.
© 2021 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.