Standin’ in the need of prayerSimon Peter asked the question of Jesus, “How often am I to forgive my brother if he goes on wronging me? Would seven times be enough?”
And remember—Jesus practiced that kind of forgiveness. As he hung in agony on the cross, suffering and dying, he prayed, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”
Such forgiveness is not easy. It can’t be left up to our feelings. It is a matter of will. You don’t feel like forgiving? Forgive anyway, “as God in Christ forgave you.” It is a lot easier, I find, when we recognize our own need for forgiveness.
Recently I heard an interesting story about a woman in a large city who left her suburban apartment one morning to go downtown on the bus. She wanted to go shopping. She put on one of her most fashionable outfits and her favorite perfume. Then she headed out the door to catch bus No. 49 that would take her to the best shopping district in the city.
As she hurried to leave she had a last-minute thought to pick up a small sack of garbage that had accumulated in the kitchen over the weekend. She would toss it in the container at the curb on her way to catch the bus.
She had barely taken her seat when she noticed this terrible odor on the bus. She became upset with the city and determined to write a letter to city hall and complain. She muttered, “City buses shouldn’t smell like this.”
She opened a window seeking relief; the odor seemed worse. She decided it was the neighborhood through which she was riding. “How can people live in such filth?” she muttered to herself, “Why don’t they clean things up?”
When she arrived at the shopping district she discovered there was a horrible smell in every single store she visited. “The whole world smells terrible,” she complained, “Everything is going to the dogs!” And it wasn’t until she returned home and opened her packages that she realized the terrible truth — she had forgotten to toss the garbage!
Maybe we would be more inclined to forgive others if we first recognized the garbage we are carrying around in our own lives. The great African- American spiritual puts it this way:
It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O Lord,
Standin’ in the need of prayer.
Not my sister nor my brother, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer.
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple where he was senior mnister for 23 years. firstname.lastname@example.org