In my home growing up, forgiveness was not something we ever talked about. I am very thankful for many things about my childhood, but giving and receiving forgiveness was not something we did well. When we had a conflict, we never talked about it afterwards. There would be a blowup, then the parties to the conflict would ignore each other for a while, and then eventually everyone behaved as if nothing had happened. But no-one ever acknowledged any wrongdoing or asked anyone to forgive them. It just wasn’t done. As a result, the residue of the conflict often persisted, and we all got very good at justifying our own position and finding fault with others.
It was only after being introduced to Jesus – as a real, living Lord, not just a figure from the Bible stories I learned in Sunday school – that I learned how to give and receive forgiveness. In the process of being trained in prayer ministry Marion and I were schooled in the implications of Jesus’ words on forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15),
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins.
We were trained in the practice of confession, repentance and forgiveness, based on the instruction of James, the brother of Jesus, who advised his hearers to confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. We not only learned to forgive, we learned to repent, and to request and receive forgiveness – from others and from God. This saved our marriage and became a foundation stone for our life together. We haven’t always practiced it perfectly – it took me quite a while to learn not to be too hard on myself or my children – but over the years we have learned not just to forgive, but to forgive quickly and extend grace to others quickly – even when they have wronged us, and even when they don’t ask.
So what has all this got to do with COVID-19? Am I saying that your personal sins are being punished by this crisis? No, the connection between sin and this pandemic is not nearly as linear as that. But there is a connection. The earth is groaning because of the wickedness of its inhabitants, and God is shaking the nations as he warned he would do, preparing us for the return of Jesus and the restoration of all things. At the same time, Satan is raging, seeking to discourage and destroy the people of God. This is a time to search our hearts and lives. Because of the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who was slain for us, we can be completely set free from the guilt and penalty of our sin, but we do have to ask for that forgiveness. When we humble ourselves and pray, we receive assurance from God that we are forgiven, accepted, that there is no barrier between us and Him. We stand clothed in the purity and righteousness of Jesus. From that platform of assurance and confidence we can then ask Him for mercy on our nation and the nations of the earth.
I am writing this on the morning of Saturday March 28. In a little while a National Day of Prayer and Fasting will begin here in Canada. If you are able, and can get a connection, I invite you to join us by clicking on the link. If you haven’t already registered you may be able to do so. If you can’t join online, pray where you are. Let’s humble ourselves before the Lord, receive the assurance that we are forgiven and washed clean by His blood, and ask Him to intervene in this crisis.
God bless you.