I have three sons. As you can imagine, we experience times of cooperation and times of conflict. The greatest periods of unrest among them result from insult or injury and require outside, parental intervention to resolve. This resolution can feel forced and insincere. The apologies made in these moments may come through gritted teeth, steely gazes, and stubborn sneers. In those moments, forgiveness is either granted
or withheld on the basis of whim rather than principle. Yet, my wife and I insist on the asking for and granting of forgiveness. In order to resume peaceful relations in our home, we need, at least on the record if not in their hearts, a profession of forgiveness. Otherwise, another outbreak of skirmishes is inevitable.
Withholding forgiveness is power. I’ve seen my youngest seize it when he had no other weapons against his older brothers. He sometimes clings to his hurt and pain, refusing to forgive even though he knows he is sacrificing screen time in the transaction.
It’s no different for us. We withhold forgiveness from others
because it makes us feel powerful and in control. We refuse to grant absolution when we don’t want to relinquish the act of nursing our wounds. We cling to bitterness because the grudge feels better in that moment than clearing the air with a loved one or co-worker.
Jesus concludes his teaching on prayer by returning to the theme of forgiveness. He makes it clear that God’s forgiveness is connected to our forgiveness of others. Refusing to forgive will hurt us more profoundly than the person we seek to punish.
What ill effects am I experiencing right now because I am clinging to a grudge?
Merciful God, hear my plea for forgiveness and give me the wisdom and strength to forgive others. Amen.