Mark 11:25 (NIV)
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
At first glance this passage may seem to say that God withholds forgiveness from us until after we forgive others. We misread the message as, God forgives you only when you forgive others.
A better interpretation reads, if you can forgive others, then God has forgiven you. In other words, forgiveness is a grace you can give to others only when you have allowed God’s forgiving grace to penetrate your life. Forgiving others is proof that God is working in your heart.
Clinging to a grudge blocks us from God’s grace. We harden our hearts and deafen ourselves to the Spirit’s counsel while we demand justice for whatever we have suffered. Humility, however, helps us see through our pride and bitterness to our own flawed self. We become forgivers when we understand how often and how deeply we have hurt others and sinned against God, and yet through faith we believe that God has loved and forgiven us. Humility opens us to receiving God’s grace and mercy; love compels us to pass these gifts on to others who are as undeserving of them as we are.
Jesus understood how much we need God to help us forgive the wounds that seem unforgivable. That’s why he told his disciples we should forgive when we pray, not before we pray. “Don’t wait to pray,” he says, in effect. “Don’t let your bitter heart keep you from communing with your Father, who has the will and the resources to heal you from your pain.” There is no shame in confessing honestly to God: Lord, I just cannot forgive this person! There is only relief when you open your heart and let your loving Father share the burden of your pain and comfort you with healing grace that can eventually take the sword from your soul.
FATHER, I confess that in my angry and bitter moments, I would rather cling to my grudges than come to you for relief and transformation. Give me courage to see myself as flawed despite my best efforts to be faultless. Help me to see that I am no more deserving of your mercy and love than are the worst of my enemies. When I am tempted to build up resentment, give me the love I need instead to forgive readily and generously.
Psalm 51:4; Lamentations 1:20
Is there a grudge you bear that you are unwilling to discuss with God?