And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25
Wait! Jesus had just been talking about fig trees and mountains throwing themselves in the sea, about faith and fruitfulness. How did forgiveness get thrown in there?
One reason is that forgiveness is so vital.
You know why I think we need to forgive people so much? It’s not necessarily because they’re always sinning against us directly. It’s because we’re always getting indignant. We rail, “How could they do that?” We get huffy, “I can’t believe they said that.” People just blow our groove. They disturb our peace. They interrupt our flow. They don’t conform. They disrupt our idea of how the world should go.
Notice that Jesus calls what we do “holding” something against someone. This is so true. We keep our grudges close, like they’re a possession. We nurse them. We love to think about how wrong that person is. We don’t let it go.
The bottom line is we don’t tolerate weakness in others well.
Yet we are all weak. Yes, we may be baptized disciples. We may have repented and changed to be a better person. But there are parts of our character that take time to transform. Deep change is a process.
We’re all on a journey. I love to read and write fiction. You know what makes a good story? Character growth. I’m reading a book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, and there’s not a lot of exciting action in the book. It’s just a story of people going through real life challenges. But it’s a great book because the characters in this story are so flawed and real. They have to overcome timidity, immaturity, fear, resentment, hurt, and when they finally do, the reader rejoices.
I don’t pretend to understand the workings of God, but it’s the same for us. Our characters are forged through life.
And there’s nothing more inspiring. As I look around church, I see people who are changing on the inside over time. It’s impressive to see how different they became when they studied the Bible. But it’s maybe even more moving to see what they become through the years as God works on them. It’s amazing to remember the trials they went through, and see them triumphant on the other side.
THIS glorifies God SO MUCH!
So we can’t be afraid of weakness in others. It’s their journey. We’ll cheer them on, and help them along the way. We’ll pray fervently for them. And then we, and the Universe, will watch in anticipation to see if they will CHOOSE to overcome, if they will call on God to help them overcome. Not everyone will. That’s what makes it so powerful and compelling when someone does.
Experiencing this with someone is one of my greatest joys. But it also incurs my greatest struggles. I go through their triumphs with them, AND their messes.
We have to accept that If we have a relationship with someone, we’re going to experience their mistakes, their foolishness. We have to be PATIENT!
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. I Thes 5:14
Because the crazy thing is, that when Jesus said this about forgiving, he was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing he was about to die for people who were unfruitful, like the fig tree he cursed. He was preparing to perform the ultimate act of forgiveness. He would soon say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus knew that, in the end, all of his teaching about doing right would not be enough. He knew that even with all of our efforts, we would not make enough good choices.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:6-10
Jesus was PATIENT with us. He did not treat us as our sins deserve. Instead, he stepped forward to clean up the mess caused by our foolishness. If we keep that in mind, it is much easier to forgive others for their weaknesses.
So what Jesus was basically saying to his disciples was, “Forgive them, even though they are undeserving.”
I love how the Amplified Version phrases Mark 11:25:
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.
Let it go. Drop it. Don’t hold onto it.
Because that’s what God does with us.
And because we recognize that God’s writing a story in each one of us, and that thing we don’t want to forgive is a part of the story. The drama of the story will be in the way He teaches us to overcome.
I have to remind myself that I really don’t know how to get people to that point. I know some things that will help. But ONLY GOD knows how to orchestrate character change. I have to pray and let Him guide.
So what does forgiveness have to do with fig trees and mountains, with fruitfulness and faith? Jesus showed us true forgiveness so that we could truly be fruitful and our prayers be answered.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:7-8
It’s all connected, following Jesus, forgiving, bearing fruit. One leads to the other, which leads to the other.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12
God gives his love to us, the unworthy, and we pass it on. And that opens the way for God to work in us and through us.
Let’s pass it on. Let’s practice forbearance, not frustration.
And we will experience abundance and happy endings.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. II Peter 3:0
“No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jer 31:34
“So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Is 54:8-10