Graham Staines was a Christian missionary from Australia who worked with lepers in Orissa, a city in the North of India. Early one morning as he slept in his Jeep with his sons, Phillip, 9, and Timothy, 6, a group of anti-Christian militants surrounded the vehicle and set it on fire, burning the man and his two children alive. Less than 24 hours after the incident, which shocked—and shamed—a nation, his grieving widow came out in front of the whole world and publicly forgave the killers. Would we be able to do the same?
It isn’t easy! Next to loving our enemies, the most difficult thing to do is to forgive them. Yet, God asks us to do both. He is so particular about the latter, in fact, that he says he will withhold his own forgiveness for our sins if we do not forgive others for their sins. It is a fact that some of us do not realize, believing that we will have absolution simply by repenting, even though a common prayer that we say makes it very clear that God’s forgiveness is determinant on our own forgiveness of others. “Forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us “ (Matthew 6:12).
If we are not forgiven, then the separation remains between us and God. It is, therefore, essential that we forgive others, just as God has forgiven us.
Father God, I thank you for having forgiven me my sins; sins that I repeat time and time again. I take the decision now to forgive all those who have sinned against me. I ask you for your grace to be able to forgive those who have done so, regardless of whether the hurt they have caused me is grievous or minor. It would help me to remember that I, myself, hurt others constantly by my own words and actions.
Holy Spirit, please reveal to me those whom I need to forgive, even if they are people from way back in the past, whose names or faces I might no longer remember. In a desire to forget the pain they have caused me, I might have buried the incidents deep in my subconscious. I ask that you uncover them, not to bring back the pain, but to heal the wounds that have been caused; wounds that might be infecting my body and my soul.
Jesus, even as I forgive these people, I ask you to forgive them too. Grant them your mercy and draw them to you in salvation. I also ask you for your grace to instantly forgive those who hurt me in the future, even those who hurt me regularly. Help me to understand what you did as you were dying on the cross, that people don’t realize that they jeopardize their salvation when they hurt us, and that I should, therefore, be sympathetic rather than upset.
Some things we might need to forgive people for
for all the things they did to hurt us from since when we were born
for loving a sibling more, or giving them more attention than they gave us
for not liking or approving of our friends
for being too strict or, conversely, spoiling us with too much latitude
for not giving us the things we wanted
for standing in the way of things we wanted to do
for any abuse we might have suffered at their hands
for usurping our parents affection
for bullying us or humiliating us in front of friends
for not being as loving as we might have liked them to be
for being mean and cruel and selfish
for being unloving
for being abusive and mistreating us
for being unfaithful
for causing us embarrassment in front of our children or our friends
for not having the time for us
for a lack of affirmation or encouragement
for disobedience and disrespect
for being more attached or loving towards the other parent
for not being diligent and dutiful in their work
for not being the children we wanted them to be
Other people we might need to forgive are friends, perhaps from way back in school, teachers, principals, colleagues at work, employers, employees, uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws, priests, nuns, preachers, pastors, lovers, neighbors, doctors, nurses, lawyers, and politicians. We need to make the decision to forgive them all, ask Jesus to heal the wounds, and then let God help us through the process of reconciliation.
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