“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” is a series of church worker wellness devotions. Visit lcms.org/wellness for more resources.
by Mark Hoffmann, pastor
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Matt. 6:12)
We have said the Lord’s Prayer so often I wonder if we really think about the words being said.
Asking God to forgive us as we forgive others can be a bit scary to me, especially when I think about the person I have not truly forgiven.
Whether its someone in your family, your network of people, or even in your congregation, you know who said or did something hurtful to you.
Scripture is clear that we need to forgive, as Paul reminds us in Eph. 4:32:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (ESV)
And we can do so, because we ourselves have been forgiven completely in Christ Jesus.
Even when it feels impossible, we have the Spirit interceding in our struggle.
What does it mean to forgive someone?
Forgiveness is not pretending something never happened, and it is not saying what happened was good or right.
Forgiveness is not a casual glossing over of an offense, nor is it deciding to let people run all over you.
Forgiveness is a choice we make to release someone from a debt they owe us. It also unburdens us.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18 makes clear the point of releasing someone from a debt they owe us:
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’
And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’
So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’
He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.
Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’
And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matt. 18:23–35 ESV).
Releasing one from the debt they owe us is not easy.
Do you think it was easy for this master who was owed what would be equal to millions of dollars today to forgive that debt?
Was it easy for Joseph to forgive his half-brothers after all they had done to him?
Joseph was thrown in a pit, sold to traders, taken to Egypt, made a slave in Potiphar’s house, falsely accused and convicted of attempted rape, and put in prison.
But, in spite of all these injustices, Joseph forgave his brothers.
Where did Joseph get that strength to forgive? Only from God, of course! Our heavenly Father is exactly from whom we too can get strength to forgive.
Is there someone you need to forgive?
Don’t wait for that person to ask for your forgiveness. Jesus didn’t wait for us to ask Him for our forgiveness, but He willingly went to the cross to release us from the debt that we owed.
In response to that love and forgiveness, God tells us to release the one who has a debt to us, and after doing that you also will probably feel some relief.
It may not be easy, but God has given us His Spirit to help and give us the strength to do it.
Lord God, You sent Your one and Only Son, our Savior Jesus, to the world, where He lived a perfect life and went to the cross to pay the price for all our sins. Thank You for the forgiveness that You have given me. Help me Lord, give me the strength through Your Holy Spirit to forgive_________________. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.
Mark Hoffmann is associate pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church in Chandler, Ariz.
LCMS church workers and their families are invited to offer encouragement to other workers and families by submitting a 500-word devotion for the Synod’s worker-to-worker wellness devotion series. Email questions and submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.