Read 2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51; Matthew 6:14-15
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! “ (Matthew 18:21-22)
Have you heard the tale of King David? When I mention his name, images of a ruddy-faced shepherd boy might come to mind. Perhaps, you are seeing a sling-shot and a stone in the hands of a puny boy facing a monstrous giant named Goliath? Or perhaps you see the rising star of a man, named David, who quickly climbed the political ranks in Saul’s military. Perhaps you see David being chased down by an envious King who was desperately trying to hold on to the power that was never his to begin with.
But, when the name David is mentioned, do you think of the man who slept with another man’s wife and got her pregnant? Do you think of a man who had her husband sent to the front lines in a battle to be killed so that her husband would not know of the affair? Do you think of a King who has gained so much power that he forgets the very God who gave it to him? When we read Psalm 51 and reflect on the lamenting of its author, it is hard to not think of David when he finally realizes that he was not powerful enough to hide his sins from God.
Whether or not Psalm 51 was actually written by David or not is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that the Psalmist, whoever he or she was, was certainly feeling desperately in need of God’s forgiveness. It is fitting that this Psalm gets traditionally attributed to David, in light of the great and scandalous sin that David committed. It is a Psalm that we all can relate to, as we have all found ourselves getting caught in the act of doing something we should not be doing. We have all found ourselves on our knees, at some point or another, begging God to forgive us.
Seeking forgiveness is a part of the Christian journey. John the Baptist preached the message of repentance…as did Jesus…as did the apostles and all of the Christians since then. But for Jesus, seeking forgiveness was not enough. Anyone, given the right circumstances, can be pushed to do that; however, Jesus taught that it was equally important for us to be forgiving of others. “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Now, most of us recognize that it is important to forgive others. It may be hard, and we may not want to forgive everyone, but we know that forgiveness is something God would want us to do. Yet, when we speak of forgiveness, we often only think of others. After all, we are to forgive others, right? What we don’t realize is that God not only wants us to forgive “others”, but God also wants us to forgive ourselves. In fact, if we don’t forgive ourselves, how can we ever be in a place to forgive others?
We can beg God for forgiveness all day long; however, if we are unwilling to accept God’s forgiveness, then we will never receive it. The fact of the matter is that God has already forgiven us and is waiting for us to move beyond the ashes of Lent and lamentation into the warm and bright light of Easter. Whether we are as powerful as King David or as humble and meek as a peasant child born in a stable, God is calling us to be a people of the resurrection…a people who have been forgiven, who forgive themselves, and who extend that forgiveness to others. Such people embody God’s hope, healing and wholeness!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
Lord, teach me the discipline of forgiveness…first for myself and then for others who have wronged me. Let my willingness to forgive bear witness to you! Amen.