Having prepared for the our journey to Great Lent by seeing Zacchaeus’ humility, the Publican’s repentance, and the Prodigal Son’s return; and having contemplated the Last Judgment and the fruits of repentance, we now stand at the threshold of the Fast, and hear the word of the Lord “if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Mt. 6:14). Indeed forgiveness is the keystone that holds our Christian life together, and manifests the love of God for us.
It is this divine love that holds all things together being both sacrificial and unfettered with demands and conditions. It is a love that forgives us “even while we were still sinner” (Rm. 5:8); even from the Cross.
It is at the foot of the cross where we see the perfect love of God suffering because He loved us; and it is where we hear His words “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Lk. 23:34). The question is how will we respond to that forgiveness?
It is not rocket science to understand that to be loved is the primary foundation in which to love. Loving homes produce loving families, loving families produce loving children, loving Churches produce loving communities, loving people produce more loving people. One doesn’t have to be a Orthodox Christian, let alone a Christians to understand this. For if forgiveness is the ultimate expression of love, the same logic applies to forgiveness.
Forgiving homes produce forgiving families, forgiving families produce forgiving children, forgiving Churches produce forgiving communities, forgiving people produce more forgiving people. It stands to reason that we can not love if we are not loved, and we certainly can not forgive if we are not forgiven. But here is the thing. We are indeed loved, and we are indeed forgiven!
Our Lenten journey of repentance should help us see the love of God for us, manifested in everything that surrounds us; and profoundly it should reveal His forgiveness for us, and in turn love and forgive those around us.
Yet what good is the love of God and His forgiveness for us, if we are unwilling to accept it and offer it in return to those around us. Love is simply idolatry if it is not shared sacrificially, and forgiveness is a cheap sentiment or business transaction if it is not offered out of love.
To accept God’s love is to participate in God’s saving and redemptive life, and to bear witness to that love in our relationships. To accept God’s forgiveness is to equally participate in His just and merciful love, and to bear witness to it in our relationships.
To refuse to love and forgive -even those who hate you- (Mt. 5:44), is to hear the words of forgiveness offered from the Cross, and to leave it beating our breasts without understanding and consultation, or even worse, to mock him spitefully. Lord have mercy!
May we take this season of fasting, mercy and prayer to learn to love as He has loved us, and profoundly manifest that life saving love in our forgiveness of those around us. Holding fast to His words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass (indebted) against us”.