“Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
There is nothing more damaging to the soul than a heart that is unwilling to forgive. Unforgiveness is the undoing of the Christian life, leaving behind a shell of the person God has called that individual to be.
Here is a wonderful story about the undoing of unforgiveness; I cannot confirm that these events actually happened, but, true story or not, the principle expressed is true for all people in all ages and in all places.
Leonardo da Vinci painted his famous “The Last Supper” fresco in a church in Milan. At the time that he was working on the painting, Leonardo was angry because of a bitter argument he had had with another painter. Da Vinci despised this man, and when he painted Judas Iscariot sitting at the table with Jesus, he used the face of the man he had argued with so that everyone who saw the painting would see the face of his enemy representing the man who betrayed Jesus. Da Vinci is said to have taken great pleasure in knowing that others would actually see the face of his enemy in the place of Judas.
As he worked on the faces of the other disciples, Da Vinci often tried to paint the face of Jesus, but he couldn’t make any progress. Da Vinci grew increasingly frustrated and confused. Over time, he realized his own fault. His hatred for the other painter was holding him back from finishing the face of Jesus, who had told us to love our enemies . . . just has He had loved us when we were still His enemies (Romans 5:10). It was only after he had made peace with his enemy and repainted the face of Judas that Leonardo was able to paint the face of Jesus and complete his masterpiece.
Having counseled with countless people as a pastor over the years, I am convinced that the main reason we have a difficult time accepting God’s forgiveness is because of the undoing of unforgiveness that lives in our own hearts. I must admit that I am speaking from my own experience in this matter. In our sinful nature, we have a tendency to remake God in our own image; we imagine a God who holds grudges and withholds forgiveness. But, like Da Vinci, when we let go of our past pain, resentment, and anger and offer forgiveness to others just like the grace we ourselves have received, we free ourselves to see the face of our Lord Jesus more clearly, and His face reflects the twin truths that we are unconditionally loved and completely forgiven.
How are you doing in the area of forgiveness? Is there anyone in your life right now that you need to forgive? It has been well said that “Unforgiveness does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the object upon which it is poured.” Remember, offering forgiveness is not condoning wrongdoing, and forgiveness is not equal to trust. Wrong behavior is wrong behavior, but you and I have been called to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
May we be the fragrance and the aroma of Christ — and may that sweet fragrance permeate out own hearts — as we release any lingering bitterness and unleash the forgiveness that God lavished on us.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!