So much of our society trains us to focus on ourselves, on our rights, and to judge others as respecters or offenders of those rights. This past weekend, in Bend, some alleged social media posts from the shooter who took the life of two innocents revealed this to the extreme. Remembering wrongs others commit against us and the lack of forgiveness is toxic. What we see in Christ’s Gospel is quite the opposite, not focused on the wrongs of others, but on our own spiritual state.
After the story of the man forgiven a massive debt, who turns around and requires someone else to repay him a much smaller debt, resulting in his re-judgment with the same harshness he used, the passage ends: So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
So, we know what not to do. But what should we do? How should we act?
The life of an unnamed monk, a saint commemorated on March 30th, tells us how we should act. It starts off:
“A certain monk, living in a monastery, spent his days carelessly, not caring about his salvation, but indulging all his life in idleness.” Not a great start…especially for a saint.
On his death bed, his brother monks could not figure out why he looked so joyous, even though, from their perspective, he should have feared judgment having lived such a careless life.
“It is true, honorable fathers, that I spent my life carelessly. Just now the angels of God brought to me and read before me a manuscript, on which all my evil deeds were recorded. After reading the manuscript, the angels asked me, ‘Do you remember these deeds of yours?’ I answered: ‘Yes, I remember exactly. But ever since I renounced the world, and became a monk, never have I condemned anyone, nor have I been angry with anyone. Therefore I beseech you to do unto me according to the word of Christ, who said: Judge not, that you be not judged, and, For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
And as soon as I said this, immediately the holy angels tore up the handwritten manuscript of my sins. That is why I go to God with joy and carefree.” And he immediately gave up his soul to the Lord.
Matthew 7:1-2 – Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
See that? With the measure you use… That means we are the ones who decide how strictly we are judged. If ever there were encouraging news about judgment, that is it!
A chapter before that, in the Gospel of Matthew, it says: 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.
And in Luke, too: Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
This is not some one-time quote of Christ; he repeats this idea over and over. It is even in the Lord’s Prayer: and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. That is, “in the same manner in which I forgive others, forgive me.” My sincere prayer is that all of us hear this meaning every time we pray “Our Father…”
Very little in our culture encourages us to forgive others. And almost nothing actively teaches us how to do it. This is the start. In the next post, we will look at taking this a step further, of “going the extra mile” in forgiveness.