Today’s reading was chock full of goodies, but even with Jesus addressing fasting and giving, I chose to highlight His instruction on the two-way nature of forgiveness.

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NRSV)

That’s pretty clear, but we do tend to avoid the truth of it. The rest of the chapter points out that our Heavenly Father sees all our secrets: our private giving, our discreet fasting, and oh yes, this matter of forgiveness and grudge-bearing. Forgiveness is promised to the one who forgives, but my experience is that being forgiven makes it possible for me to forgive. When I was under guilt, I wanted company, and I wanted them to feel more guilty than me, so I pointed out their sins, told them they needed a Savior, and did my best to hide away the log-sized guilt in my own eye. When hiding it didn’t work, I indulged myself in guilt-assuaging pleasures, which led to more guilt, and the cycle began to run over my life. It stops when we accept forgiveness, and perpetuates itself when we, out of gratitude for that forgiveness, forgive others. I cannot serve both grace and bitterness at the same time. Yesterday, I got wrapped around a silly bit of bitterness and it robbed me of my joy most of the day. Had I immediately forgiven my trespasser, I would have remained comfortably under grace. Instead, I stepped out into a flurry of hate and discontent and found myself bitten by the frost of it.

Dear Father, today, I thank you for the grace that You have given me in such measure that I can share it with others. I need not whine about the penny owed me when you have paid my million dollar debt.