It was the second time Jesus talked about it.
Some time ago, when Jesus shared his famous “Lord’s Prayer” with his disciples, he told them to forgive others, as they had been forgiven. Now, in this fig tree episode, they were amazed that what Jesus had said to the fig tree had come to pass. (And who talks to a fig tree anyway?) He definitely had their attention! So he talked to them about praying. He told them that, when they prayed, they needed to believe they recieved their prayers answered, and also, while they are standing praying, forgive anyone they had anything against.
I’m not sure they got it, even at the second telling. And I can understand why.
This exhortation to forgive hasn’t always fit my theology. Here’s the thing: Because I realized every single thing God has provided for us is ours by grace and through faith, this “forgive when you pray” thing sounded like a condition, a “work” that we had to add to our faith, and that didn’t make sense to me for a couple of reasons. First, the New Testament suggested that my personal good works weren’t qualifiers for God’s favour. Second, my personal experienced backed that up. In my view (and that of others I am sure), I certainly wasn’t a perfect specimen of a Christian and I had received many of His promises fulfilled. So, with gratitude, I knew that my relationship with God was based on my faith in what Jesus did, not on what I could ever do. And, in regard to forgiveness, my natural immediate response to being hurt was not to forgive, but, instead, to nurse the offense.
But, in spite of my personal opinion of the deal, I would always, when I prayed, on purpose, because Jesus said so, say, “I forgive (anyone and everyone I could think of that had hurt or even irritated me in some way).”
Just to be sure I had it covered, “I forgive,” out loud!
Recently, in looking back over those times, it has occured to me that I needed to say those words of forgiveness because my heart needed it.
Unforgiveness closes the heart. I can even feel it happening sometimes. Opening and closing. (We are indeed fearfully made, and not just our bodies.)
I concluded that if my heart was closed to anyone through unforgiveness, it was in some way also closed to God. (As you have done it to the least of these my brethren…?) Closed, even though I didn’t want it to be. And if I was to receive anything from God, even the promises he wanted to fulfill in my life, my heart had to be open.
God knew that, and so he said, “Forgive.”
Today, let’s throw our heart wide open.
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe you receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive…” (Mark 11:25,26)