The Lord Jesus Christ commands us to forgive people. And he punctuates it with this statement: "so that your Father in heaven may forgive you." If you forgive, God forgives you. If you don't forgive, God will not forgive you (Matthew 6:14-15).

Many people today desire both forgiveness of their sins and absolution from the consequences of those sins. They equate the two as being concordant and if they continue to suffer from the consequences of their actions they cry foul claiming they have not truly been forgiven. Sadly, many I fear only want to be absolved of the consequences of their sins and have little concern for the forgiveness. This is true because the consequences are often immediate and temporal, with which the majority are mostly concerned, while forgiveness is spiritual and eternal and less evident in this world.

One of the more challenging things about forgiveness is that it's not a once in a while kind of thing. We are to continuously forgive each other. To emphasize this point, Matthew records a conversation between Jesus and the Apostle Peter: "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven'"(Matthew 18:21-22).

By the way, Jesus does more than just command us to forgive. He gave us the ultimate example. When he was dying for crimes he did not commit, Jesus looked down at his tormentors and said:"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34a).

While God does forgive we need to understand that there will inevitably be consequences for our sins in this life. We must turn our focus from the temporal consequences to the eternal. There is a powerful force behind the forgiveness that God grants to those who seek it. Thanks be to God that Jesus paid the price for our sins spiritually that we should not have to face the eternal, spiritual consequences of our sins. The best course of action is to be faithful!

Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes