I have heard many sermons about the prodigal son over the years. Once I heard a preacher ask if we could tell the main difference between the son who left home and the one who stayed behind. I thought of a lot of differences that he might have been referring to. What he wanted us to see is that both of the sons were in a pigsty; but only the younger son realized it. Whenever we judge the behavior of another, it is a wise thing for us to take a look around and see if we have any mud on us. The first step to forgiveness from our Heavenly Father is to realize that we too are sinners and that we need to repent of our sins. When we really understand how much God has forgiven us, it is easier to overlook the faults of others.
In our culture we have been taught that things like money, position, reputation need to be earned. This is not always a bad thing, but we cannot earn the forgiveness of Jesus—it is free to those who confess their sins to him and ask for his mercy. But we must remember in order for us to be forgiven we must be willing to forgive those who wrong us. The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:14 tells us: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive you.” What a sobering thought!
Sometimes forgiving someone who has wronged us is a gradual process. We think we have forgiven them but then something happens to bring back the hurt and bitterness. Then the process has to begin again. Sometimes we have to forgive someone who doesn’t even know that they have wronged us. If we went to them and said, “I forgive you for what you did”, they would not even know what we were talking about.
It is especially hard to forgive those who have wronged us and show no regret for their actions, realizing they would probably do it again if given the chance. It is not that what they did doesn’t matter, because someday they will be held accountable for their actions. It is not our responsibility to execute judgment—that’s God’s job and we need to leave that to him.
Holding a grudge against someone means that person is in control of your feelings. The damage is done to you and the chains that bind are on your life. Forgiving is mandatory if we are to experience true peace and freedom in our Christian life. As Christians, we have been forgiven so much that we cheapen the unfathomable forgiveness of Jesus when we hold a grudge against another.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:13-14