Jesus taught us power of forgiveness


In Mark 1:21-22, we read, “21 (Jesus and his disciples) went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, (Jesus) entered the synagogue and taught. 22 (The people) were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

My 9-year-old son and I read this verse together as part of our family Lenten devotions this week. Lent is a season of our church where we intentionally turn to God through practices of prayer, fasting and/or service to deepen our faith and connection with God. As we reflected on these verses, I asked him, “What is a teaching of Jesus that amazes you?”

He paused and then he responded, “Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to forgive people.”

“Yes,” I said, “Those really are amazing teachings of Jesus.”

“But how?” he asked.

“How what?” I replied.

“How can I forgive people that hurt me?” my son inquired.

“Well, let’s think about this, you’ve hurt people, and people have forgiven you.” I responded.

“Yes, but what if someone hurt me so bad I was put in the hospital? There is no way I could forgive them. It would be impossible.”

Forgiveness is an important teaching and practice of Jesus. When Simon Peter asked Jesus often one should forgive, Jesus responds, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22. When Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer he says, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25. When Jesus is dying on the cross, he not only teaches forgiveness but lives it as some of his last words recorded are, “4‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” Luke 23:24.

And yet, as my son points out, although this is an important teaching of Jesus, it is one that many struggle to understand or even follow. In a world that seems to only be more divided, estranged and polarized, forgiveness does seem rather impossible, unrealistic and impractical.

So why should one forgive? Why is this teaching so important to Jesus? This is a hard concept to discuss with a 9-year-old. Yet, from my own experience, I have seen that forgiveness helps us to let go of the resentment, pain and hurt that can so often lead us to lives of contempt, bitterness and more pain. Holding on to anger, bottling it up and not finding healthy ways to release it can lead to explosive behaviors, regrets and in essence doing the same behaviors to others that you can not let go of yourself. Working towards forgiveness is freeing, healing and helps lead to reconciliation that will bring far more fruits than continuing the hurt and pain of violence that began the wound in the first place.

I strongly believe this is why this teaching of Jesus is in fact amazing. It is a teaching that is by no means easy, but one that is worth striving for and one that will lead to a life of love, hope, and peace that will far outlast us all. So, this Lenten season as my son and I journey towards the cross with Jesus, perhaps he and I are being challenged to practice forgiveness, to forgive, and to release the pains we have experienced in our lives.

If you, reader, can relate to this struggle of forgiveness in any way, perhaps you too can join us in this practice of faith and give to God those places close to your own heart that are deep and wounded. For those of us who choose to take this journey, may we practice trusting these teachings of Jesus even through our wrestling. Let us take the hurts we have had and bury them at the foot of the cross, entrusting them to God’s Easter promise and message of love. May God take hold of these pains and sorrows that wound us so deeply and bring forth gifts of freedom, new life and resurrection for each of us this day and always.

Wendy Richter is a pastor at St. Mark’s and All Shepherds Lutheran churches.

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