“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”– Matthew 6:14-15 (MSG).
The idea of forgiveness tends to make people squirm a little. It doesn’t matter if you are a new Christian or one that has walked with the Lord for many years, it is a struggle to get over past hurts. Showing mercy and love to those who have injured us does not come naturally. Once you are a Christian you would think it would be easier to love others, but forgiving someone who has deeply hurt us is one of the most difficult tasks we are faced with as Christians. That is because we want affirmation that the pain inflicted upon us was unfair and cruel. We want someone to pay for their actions. It is at times like these when we need to remember we serve a God who shows more forgiveness to us in a day then we will ever have the opportunity to show someone else in a lifetime.
The movie I Can Only Imagine, shows the reality of forgiveness in a way that so many will relate to. This movie is not only an example of God’s never-ending, all-consuming, redeeming love, but also an example of a man who chose to look to Him as an example of forgiveness when he was faced with two choices: to forgive or to reject. Bart Millard’s father consistently crushed his dreams and physically and emotionally abused him. It was when Millard returned home to find his father a changed man, passionate about loving Christ and asking for his forgiveness that he was faced with the task of truly trusting and forgiving like Christ. The story that unfolds is one that he would never have imagined—a true testament to the love and forgiveness he showed a man who by all accounts, didn’t deserve it.
There are real lessons to be learned from this movie. For example, no one is too broken for forgiveness from God, which means they shouldn’t be too broken for forgiveness from us. Second, if a perfect and all-knowing God can forgive, who are we to withhold the forgiveness that is so selflessly given to us? Forgiveness is not about getting even. In fact, sometimes, the scales will be left unbalanced. Forgiveness is a gift that is genuinely given to someone who has wronged us. And finally, forgiveness opens doors to reconciliation opportunities instead of going through life with anger. Bart and his father were able to mend and develop a relationship that changed both of their lives. Had he chosen not to forgive, the pain of their broken relationship would have followed him for the rest of his life. The redemptive story of his father’s journey to Christ is what inspired the song, “I Can Only Imagine.”
- What characteristics in your life might indicate that you haven’t fully forgiven past hurts, even if you know in your head what you need to do?
- Who do you need to forgive this week?