Jesus had an interesting view of forgiveness compared to modern ideas. For many modern branches of Christianity forgiveness is almost unconditional. Say a prayer and ask God and you will be forgiven. Jesus, states in Matthew 6: 14-15:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
God’s forgiveness is predicated by our forgiveness of others. Jesus is telling us forgiveness for sins isn’t unconditional nor constant. Rather it is determined by our own actions.
We must forgive others when they wrong us in order to find peace and oneness with God. Those who hold onto anger, jealousy and pain haven’t forgiven. They remain attached to the past. These elements not only bar us from a future heaven; they also bar us from the heaven that resides in us all.
Anger, jealousy, and clasped pain can poison the mind. We cannot see that God is within the person that caused us suffering. We can’t even see that God is within us…if we will only lighten our eye. Often we feel abandoned by God. Anger, jealousy, and pain are good friends that tell us something is wrong, but they can become idols if we clasp them too closely. It does no one well to keep a list of wrongs done against them.
Jesus continues this thought in verses 22 and 23
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy,your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
The world is how we perceive it. If we look for darkness, we will see darkness. If we look for light, we will see light. How we choose to see reality determines the health of our soul, mind, and body. If we see the world through the lens of held anger, we certainly can’t forgive or see the peace around us.
Events are neutral. Things just happen. People suffer and cause suffering. It has nothing to do with anyone’s morality. The best people cause suffering. Even Jesus caused suffering. However, our view of events make them good or bad. Bad events (as we see them) make it harder for us to forgive. If we can’t forgive, we cannot see peace or be forgiven.
Luckily events are neutral. We can can change our eye and learn to let go of anger, jealousy, and pain. We can learn to forgive, and we can be forgiven. It takes little effort for light to chase away darkness. It is light’s nature. Likewise it is our nature to forgive, love, and see the good in all things.
How can I forgive?
- Realize you are in pain. Sometimes we don’t know how deeply we are hurt
- If possible, calmly speak to the other person who hurt you. Don’t accuse. Simply state how the event hurt you.
- Smile and breathe. Meditation helps us calm anger and brings distance.
- Consider your own death. The problems of life fade quickly when you picture yourself in a coffin or grave. Realize that you, all of us, will die. Death is the ultimate perspective.