Pathways to Prayer, Part 3: Forgive, Forgive, Forgive

March 20, 2011

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church


Matthew 18:21-22

21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.



Our title and our topic today is: Forgive, Forgive, Forgive.


Today, Friend, I invite you to think of these three words, Forgive, Forgive, Forgive.  Think of them when you settle into your time of prayer.  Try it right now won't you?  Close your eyes for a moment, and repeat this word to yourself three times.


Do you notice what happens when you say those words in the quietness of your heart? Isn’t there a certain liberation that comes when you say these words? Just as vitamins seem to find their way to the place in the body where they are needed, the intention of these words helps them to go where they need to be. Forgive, Forgive, Forgive.


I tell you this, the more years I spend on this earth, the more I am aware of the need to be forgiven. The more years I spend on this earth, I also realize my need to forgive.


There is a story in the Bible wherein the disciples went to Jesus and asked how many times they must forgive a person who had sinned against them. Was it seven times? Jesus said, “No. Seven times seventy.  That's an old Biblical way of saying, "an infinite number of times, keep on forgiving.”  What peace shall be yours when you practice forgiving! Peace like the running wave will be yours. Peace like the quiet earth. Peace like the healing light of the moon and stars will be yours, when you practice “Forgive, Forgive, Forgive.”


Isn’t it amazing that one of the last things Jesus did in His time on Earth, before the Resurrection, was forgive. Think of His words from the cross, Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.  He forgave and we can to. What wonderful miracles and vitality can come into our lives when we practice this principle.


What are three "forgivings" that we need to do?


Forgive Life

First of all how about forgiving life? Maybe we are frustrated because things did not work out quite the way we had hoped. Maybe something happened that we wished didn’t happen. Maybe something that we could not change took place in our life. Through no fault of our own, life handed us something we did not want. 


Perhaps we need to forgive life. Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971) wrote the wonderful Serenity prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” If those things we can not change make us angry and frustrated, maybe we need to just let them go, and forgive life with peaceful serenity.


Friend, please let me tell you something that I believe with all my heart.  The Cross of Christ means two things. I agree with the traditional belief that the Cross means we are forgiven by God. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and reconciled us to God. This is the basic meaning of salvation, and I accept my need for it.


However - I believe that the Cross also means a second thing. I believe that the Cross of Christ was God’s way of saying, “I understand the depth of the pain you go through. Look at my dear Son, I have chosen to allow Him to go through this to express My love for you.  Dear One - I understand.”


Such is the other part of salvation; and this makes me love our Lord Jesus and His Heavenly Father all the more.  God Himself is asking us to forgive life. 


 Forgive Others

The second "forgive" is: Forgive Others.  Have you ever been in a situation where you were deeply disappointed by another person? Did that "someone" hurt you in some way? I find that this falls into two categories: One, people who hurt you that you never expected to hurt you, someone to whom you had allowed yourself to be vulnerable.  That is tough stuff, when you are hurt by someone from whom you least expected hurtful behavior. Secondly, if you are hurt by someone and it didn't surprise you much. It still hurts. 


What should you do? Forgive, Forgive, Forgive. As you contemplate the hurt, I invite you to invoke those words, and just let it go. See what it does in your heart.


What better way is there?


Jesus had a friend named Peter. Jesus thought that Peter would be the one to stand beside Him. Peter was the first to tell Him that He was Lord and that he would never leave Jesus.  When Jesus said, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, Peter protested, “Never, never; not me, Lord - you can count on me to the end.”  But you know what happened. By the flickering fire light, on a cold Jerusalem night, the servant girl said to Peter, “I heard you are one of them.”   “No,” Peter protested, “I don’t know Him.”  Just then the rooster crowed, and Peter saw the face of Jesus as He passed by.  But when all was done, and Jesus rose from the dead, He gave Peter three chances to restore their friendship. Jesus forgave. Perhaps we should, too.


Forgive Yourself

The third "Forgive": Forgive Yourself. Sometimes it is much easier to forgive someone else, than it is to forgive ourselves. Sometimes it is hard to give ourselves a break and say that we accept forgiveness from others, from the universe and from God.  It is often very hard. But Friend, we are all human, we are all in the same boat. We all slip and make mistakes.


Forgive yourself. If we do this, I think there will be three rewards:  Freedom, Freedom, Freedom! If you forgive, you open yourself up to the Blessings that God has in store for you. You open yourself up to new possibilities in relationships.  You are not holding onto the broken past any more.


There is a story told about two monks who are walking along and they came to a river. One monk’s name was Ambrose, the other was Michael. As they came to the river, there was a woman standing there and looking nervously out at the water.


Michael asked her, “What is the matter?”


She replied, “I am so afraid, I need to get to the other side, but I can’t.”


So brother Michael picked her up, carried her across the river, and gently put her down on the other side. Ambrose followed along. As the two monks continued on, for the next three hours, Ambrose badgered Michael about the fact that he had picked up this woman and carried her across the river.


“How could you do it, Michael? How could you do it! You shouldn’t have done that. It is conduct unbecoming a monk!”


For three hours, Ambrose went on and on. Finally Michael turned to Ambrose and smiled. He said, “Ambrose, I carried her for three minutes, you have carried her for the last three hours.”


(Congregation laughs) How about it? Should we carry the brokenness or shall we forgive? The reward is freedom of spirit and that is very good.


I invite you to make this part of your prayer life this week. As you close your eyes, won’t you say, “Forgive, Forgive, Forgive.” You will find the blessed freedom of God coming to your heart.


God loves you; I do, too. Have a wonderful week.

© 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski