Setting a Prisoner Free

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

Bury the hatchet. Let bygones be bygones. Kiss and make up. I have come to realize that we have so many ways of describing forgiveness—but so few strategies for actually doing it. At our Clergy Roundtable, we just spent five weeks looking at forgiveness, not only to understand it, but also to learn new ways of practicing it. I can tell you that I was challenged in some brand-new ways.

I would be willing to bet that there is not one of us that hasn’t at some time or another, tasted the bitterness of old wrongs haunting us. Somebody hurt you, maybe just yesterday, maybe a lifetime ago, but you cannot let it go. You didn’t deserve whatever happened to you. But the hurt went so deep that it embedded itself in the recesses of your mind. And anytime you are reminded of the hurt, the emotions seem to flood over you again. The hurt is real, but forgiveness is our choice. Some of us wrestle hard with it, but when we get to the place where we can let it go, we soar in the freedom of it all.

There is an age-old Spanish story of a father and son who had argued loudly, trading hurtful and hateful words that neither could take back. The son left, and for many years, they were estranged from one another. Finally, after years of regret and unforgiveness, the father went off to find his son. He searched for months following every lead he could dig up. He even hired a private investigator but this, too, ended without any results. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find his son, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Pedro, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. I am sorry. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” When the father arrived at the office on Saturday at noon, 800 Pedro’s showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. This story started me to wondering how many people are looking for the gift of forgiveness from us.

If forgiveness is anything at all, it is a first a gift, a gift of pure grace, not only to the one who has wronged us, but also to ourselves as well. And Jesus knew that. “Forgiveness is setting a prisoner free, and realizing the prisoner is you.”

Prayer Focus: For those we need to forgive, including ourselves

Prayer: God of grace, we pray for open hearts.
We know that we need your help, because on our own, our hearts can harden, and we miss out on the wondrous opportunities you give us to lead a full and free life. Soften our hearts even as you meet us where we are, O Lord.
For you are leading us in the ways of Jesus. Amen.