"For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
The whole purpose of Christmas is reconciliation. Through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, His passion, death, and resurrection, God's mercy flowed into the world, the breach of original sin was mended, and fellowship between God and man was restored. Each Christmas commemorates again this wondrous gift of reconciliation and love.
For us, too, Christmas is about mercy and forgiveness. It is about letting go of past injuries, renouncing old judgments, giving up grudges. It is about renewing relationships, healing hurts, and making peace. It is about hope and new beginnings, restoration and renewal. But nowhere is it written that forgiveness is easy.
Forgiving someone who has deeply hurt us is a daunting task, and its difficulty is proportionate to the degree of injury we have experienced. The deeper the wound, the harder forgiveness comes. But Jesus tells us we must forgive -- seventy times seven times if necessary. Why is forgiveness so important?
Medical science gives us a partial answer. Our physical, emotional, and mental health depend on it. Repressed anger causes high blood pressure, ulcers, heart problems, loss of memory, gastrointestinal disorders, increased susceptibility to infection, and clinical depression. Resentment breaks up marriages, loses jobs, splits up friendships. Bitterness creates poor self-image, poor interpersonal relationships, poor job performance. All in all, lack of forgiveness separates, isolates, and devastates. Life becomes a living hell.
But, unforgiveness affects more than just our physical, emotional, and mental health. Our spiritual health suffers as well. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven:
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 Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14How, then, can we begin to forgive? First we clear up misconceptions about it. Forgiveness does not mean:
We condone the hurtful behavior
Our pain doesn't matter
Everything is okay
We allow ill will toward us to continue
We permit ourselves or those we love to stay in an abusive or harmful situation
A just resolution is unnecessary
We "feel" forgiveness
If Advent is to be a time of deeper conversion, a time of entering more deeply into the mystery of God's mercy so that we might be reconciled to Him and to others, then it is important for us to overcome these misconceptions.
Today's Spiritual Exercise:
During your prayer time today, ask the Holy Spirit to identify for you the one person you most need to forgive (don't be surprised if it is someone other than the person you think you most need to forgive!). As you consider this person, review the misconceptions listed above. Which of those might apply to your lack of forgiveness toward this person? Ask the Holy Spirit to free you from your misconception(s) so that your process toward forgiveness might begin.
Be sure to journal your insights during your time of prayer.Copyright 2020, by Johnnette Benkovic Williams. All rights reserved.