In his book, Phycology, Religion and Healing, Leslie Weatherhead* wrote that “Forgiveness is the most therapeutic idea in the world.”
After reading that I went to Forsyth Hospital to see a member. I was sharing an elevator with an MD psychiatrist. When I saw his badge, I could not help myself. I said, “Doctor, I just read that forgiveness is the most therapeutic idea in the world. What would you say to that?”
He lit up like a lightbulb and became very animated. He said, “Yes, that’s it. Forgiveness is the most therapeutic idea in the world, but just you try and get one of my patients to forgive themselves.”
I did not say it out loud, but I thought to myself that I would not do that. When we repent toward another person, we repent into the mouth of a raging lion. At least, it feels like it. When we repent toward ourselves, we repent up a slippery slope. Yes. It is only when we repent toward God that we repent toward the source of all forgiveness, goodness and love.
Is God really willing to forgive us? Yes! In Psalm 134 we read, “There is forgiveness with you, O Lord, that you may be (worshiped).”
In Luke 5:31,32 Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
And in 1st John 1:9 we read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
God’s ability to forgive us depends upon one thing: Our ability to recognize and renounce our sins. God cannot save us from our sins until we are ready to be saved from our sins. This makes sense when you remember that, in this life, we are not so much punished for our sins as by our sins.
And someone will say, “So, okay, God will forgive us but what about the forgiveness of others?” But Jesus did what he could to inspire us a culture of forgiveness among his followers. He taught his disciples to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He taught that “the mercy we give is the mercy we get.” And he told Peter that we ought to forgive the one who wrongs us “not 7 times, but 70 times 7.”
When I fail to forgive someone, the one I hurt most is myself. Resentment lives in me like cancer, a rot. I need to get it out. There it is.
And someone will say,” Fine, God forgives me, and there is some chance I will be forgiven by others, but how can I forgive myself?” I had a friend who said, “I do alright by day, but at night, I toss and turn and remember the wrongs I have done.”
Well, here is bad news. We will always remember the wrong that we have done. The Holy Spirit is with us to convince us of sin and righteousness and judgement. Here is the good news. As Christians we can remember our sins like they were committed by another. For, as we read in 1st Peter 2:24, “He himself (Jesus!) bore our sins in his body on the (cross), that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
I would close with this. In John 20:23, the risen Christ spoke to his disciples saying:
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
I say to you: You are forgiven! Now go out and forgive. Forgiveness is one of the wonderful words of life. Finnis
Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.
Prayer: O Lord, forgive us our trespasses against you, against one another, against ourselves, and against our world. “How Long O, Lord!” Give unto us your peace! Amen
*Note: Leslie Weatherhead was the pastor of City Temple in London during the Blitz in World War II. City Temple was “Methodist,” and the largest non-Anglican church in the city. He was famous on many fronts, especially for his little book, The Will of God. It has sold millions of copies.