Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.”
For the past thirty years I have had the opportunity to go into prison at least once a month as a part of a Kairos ministry team — well, until COVID closed the doors to us two years ago. One of the major themes of Kairos is to show the prison residents that God loves them and that God is willing and able to forgive them of all their sins.
Now you and I know that God is in the forgiveness business, and it is easy for most of us to think that God can forgive us, right? I mean our list of sins are really minor compared to those who are locked away in prison. Our list might include cheating, gossiping, lying, inappropriate thoughts, or the slip of the tongue every now and then. Our sins are rather tame compared to the sins of those in prison. We know that and so do they.
So the challenge is this — to convince them and us that God’s grace and forgiveness is extended to all. In God’s eyes sin is sin. There are no big sins or little sins. Anything that separates us from God is sinful. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. But before we can receive God’s forgiveness there are a few requirements on our part. We must confess our sin, turn away from our sin (repent), and be willing to forgive others. To simply say “God I’m sorry” and think that’s all it is cheapens God’s grace.
On the Kairos weekend everyone is asked to make a list of all those they hold in unforgiveness. Now on my first Kairos team I had been a pastor for more than ten years, and yet I was able to list a dozen or more names of people that I still held in unforgiveness. I realized that I still had quite a way to go on my way to perfection. I’m pleased to report that with God’s help that list shrunk with time, and that when I make such a list these days I find it difficult to think of even one name.
So my challenge to you in this Lenten season is this. Find a quiet place and do a little self-examination. Ask God to help you see the sin in your life and then confess those sins; ask God for forgiveness and repent. Then make your own list of people whom you hold in unforgiveness. You may be surprised like I was the first time I made such a list. Set about to forgive those people. It might not be easy, but with God all things are possible.
Rev. Steve McCormick