I was struck by Eugene Peterson's version of a familiar verse from Mark, which I read this morning. In The Message, Mark 11:26, Jesus tells his disciples, "And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it's not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive--only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins."
I'm good at asking, but not so good at forgiving, not even the small things sometimes. I've learned that I am best able to forgive when I remember to ask God's help. On my own I simply cannot get there. And even with God's help, it frequently takes awhile. Perhaps that's why Jesus reminded the disciples that they needed to be willing to forgive if they expected God to forgive them.
I think there's more to this than a not-so-thinly-veiled threat. I think perhaps what Jesus meant was that unless we are willing to grant forgiveness to others, we will never be able to comprehend how God can possibly forgive us. And thus we will be unable to accept God's great gift of forgiveness for ourselves. For my part, I know I will have to keep working on this long as I live, and for all I know into the next life as well. For as the Psalmist wrote so long ago, I know my sins, and they are forever before me. Wash me clean, Lord, for You are the only one who can. May you find it in your heart, with God's help, to forgive others, so that you can experience God's mercy and love when you need forgiveness yourself.
Grace and Peace,