This morning, I woke up early to work on my message and as often happens, messages tend to steer a little different direction than I anticipate. In Jesus' resurrection visitation to His disciples, He commissions them by sending them to the world with the message of forgiveness and repentance. Since, Scripture interprets Scripture, I checked the cross references for this passage and their message of forgiveness was coupled with actually forgiving others themselves.
They had just witnessed the brutality of Jesus' crucifixion at the hands of the religious authorities and the Roman government. Jesus was commissioning them to go out and share the gospel with these very people and that would require that they learn to forgive them for their actions. The irony of this message is seen in the fact that the disciples were behind closed doors in fear of the people that had crucified Christ. There would have been some issues of, not only fear, but also the disciples holding the offense against those who had killed Jesus.
Then Christ tells them to preach forgiveness and repentance but also for them to forgive those to whom they preach. We are reminded of Jesus' words in the Gospel of Matthew.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14-15 NLT
Jesus reveals that forgiveness is critical to us as well as the offender. Yet, that is easier said than done. In studying for Sunday's message, I came across a story about Corrie Ten Boom. She was a survivor of the Nazi Concentration camps and releasing forgiveness to her enemies had proven a challenge. This story is a powerful illustration for us and how we can forgive and let go of the offenses of others.
Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest.
"His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor," Corrie wrote, "to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks." "Up in the church tower," he said, nodding out the window, "is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down."
"And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force -- which was my willingness in the matter -- had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts."
For you and I to be able to forgive and let go of the offense requires that we quit ringing the bell. Quit rehashing the offense. Quit playing it over and over in your heart and mind. Give it to God and let Him help you, just quit pulling the rope on the bell of offense. Let go of the rope!