By Kraig Sorvick
I remember when my twin brother Karl and I were seven years old, we became angry with one another for some foolish thing that mattered then, but clearly does not matter now. Seeking revenge, I laid out an inconspicuous trap for him that would, hopefully, humiliate him. I sprayed cleaning fluid all over our linoleum kitchen floor, applying a liberal amount near the top of the basement stairs because I knew my brother was in the basement. After creating the trap, I sat in the living room to watch and wait. When the door finally opened, however, it wasn’t my brother. My dad took one step, flew up in the air, hung there for a moment like in a cartoon, and then crashed onto his back. It was my father who was affected by my handiwork, not my brother, the intended target. Confused, my dad sat up and Karl ran up the stairs to find out the source of the crashing sound. Noticing the floor near my dad was wet, my twin suggested we dry it with towels. I quickly agreed to help and suggested wiping down the entire kitchen floor for good measure.
Naturally, I felt awful. Later that night, I went and sat on my dad’s lap, completely remorseful. I explained everything, every detail, my motives, and my plan. My dad wasn’t angry. He simply said, “It’s okay, Kraig. I forgive you.” This is one of my earliest memories of forgiveness.
At that time, I didn’t fully understand forgiveness. I just knew that I had received it from my dad. I could have been punished, grounded, or given chores for what I did, but instead, I was forgiven. Forgiveness is remarkable, anomalous, and beautiful. We can receive it and extend it almost daily.
Jesus teaches His followers, and us, how to pray in Matthew 6. In what is commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, He teaches what forgiveness should look like.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (v.12)
In this model of prayer, we are to ask our Father in heaven to forgive us for the sin and wrongdoings we have committed. In turn, we are also to forgive anyone who has done something wrong to us. God displayed forgiveness to us by sending His perfect, spotless, and sinless Son to die on the cross for every sin. In this way, He calls us to the same level of mercy and grace to those who need our forgiveness.
Forgiveness is freeing. Forgiveness is powerful. Forgiveness is godly. And we are to forgive others because God forgave us. Forgiveness is not conditional, it’s not based on feelings or past grudges; it’s based on God and what He did for us on the Cross.
When praying the Lord’s Prayer we are called to forgive and remember how God forgave us. C.S. Lewis once spoke on forgiveness saying:
“No part of Jesus’ teaching was clearer, and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins providing they are not too frightful, or providing there are extenuating circumstances. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t, we shall be forgiven none of our own.”