Daily posts to help you connect with God
and keep yourself travelling in the right orbit
ORBIT | WEEK FIFTEEN
ORBIT – DAY SIXTY-NINE
Hello and welcome to another week of Orbit – a resource for daily time with God, created by the youth team at St Mary’s Reigate. Each weekday we give you a bit of the Bible to ponder, plus a practical way of applying it to your life today.
BIBLE READING – 2 Corinthians 2: 5-11
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
Forgiveness can be hard. We all know the pain of being wronged by someone – some of us to a more extraordinary extent than others – and we all know how difficult it can be to forgive a person who has betrayed us in some way. Whenever we talk about forgiveness, it can be really difficult not to think about those people in our lives who we find it especially hard to forgive. Therefore before we start, It is important to recognise that the Christian call to forgiveness should never be made flippantly. It is sometimes incredibly difficult, and that should not be overlooked.
However, unforgiveness can be difficult too. Someone once described holding a grudge as “allowing someone else to live rent-free in your head”, so there are some pretty compelling human reasons for embracing forgiveness. But perhaps more importantly than that, forgiveness is something that God commands of us. The Lord’s prayer famously asks God to forgive us our sins… AS WE forgive those who sin against us. It is not so much a transaction as an agreement; we receive God’s forgiveness for the things that we’ve done wrong, on the understanding that we will then extend forgiveness to others.
One of the reasons that God requires forgiveness from us is that it is key to harmony in the family of God – the church. That is what Paul is addressing here: the ability of the church as a family to extend forgiveness to members who have stepped out of line. He recognises that when someone lets us down (and perhaps that is felt in a different way when it is a whole community that feels aggrieved), it can be hard to move on. But, Paul says, there have to be limits – a repentant person has already suffered quite a bit of shame and sadness; Paul is clear that we don’t want people to be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow”. So if someone does let us down, although it is important that they say sorry and seek to make amends, we should also after a while reaffirm our love for them.
Paul also talks about the spiritual dimension of this. Although even the mention of his name can feel a little bit weird, Paul actually invokes Satan – saying that this issue of unforgiveness is one of the ways that he tries to outwit the church. When the church holds a grudge against a person, the loving, interdependent structure of the church family is undermined and can even start to break down. The bottom line: forgiveness is fundamentally important to the health of individual Christians, and the church.
As I said at the start, forgiveness is hard. Yet it is absolutely central to the Christian faith. Christianity offers the hope that whatever we do, there is always a way back for us. And this must not just be something which is offered in eternity, but also modelled in the here and now by the church.
You might want to join me in praying this prayer.
God, we thank you that as far as East is from West, so far have you removed our sins from us. We pray today, that you would give us the strength to forgive those who have wronged us, and the vision to see where unforgiveness exists in us and in our community. Help us to live in peace, even when that humanly seems impossible. Amen
There’s now a chance for you to pray, or listen to God, or simply be still for a few moments.
Each day we will provide you with a simple challenge; something to do which helps you put this little thought into action. Here’s today’s challenge:
You’ve probably already foreseen that this might be a difficult one, and I don’t take this lightly. If you can, spend some time praying, asking God to bring to mind anyone who you have not forgiven. Ask for his help in then beginning to extend forgiveness. It could be that you are just able to make a very small step, but while this can be incredibly painful and difficult, it is possible with God’s help.
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We’ll be back with another edition of Orbit tomorrow. Thanks for taking part today!