How do we deal with those who don’t forgive, or why must we forgive others for their actions against us?

As a Christian, if I am to take Jesus’s words as truth, and if I were to follow his words, we’d find that the road to forgiveness – the process—can be as unpleasant as the event that got us needing it in the first place. But of course, we all do exactly as Jesus tells us to do, right?

As one friend of mine told me, what keeps her out of trouble was having a pastor who said “when in doubt, follow the letters in red.” We find all kind of red letters to follow.

We find letters that are repeated like; “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven ...” But wasn’t that only supposed to apply to Peter?

I think not. It’s placed prior to the instructions on how many times you are to forgive. We know the answer is 70 times 7. But important here, are the words of Jesus when dealing with forgiveness, and leading up to that figure of how much and how often. We also hear; “Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus affirms that what we assert, bind, confess, vow or claim here today, will be our heaven. And what we acclaim not to be here at this time, will not be our heaven.

I don’t want to over simplify this with Jesus saying that we reap what we sow. Surely a healthy attitude and positive view of the world helps you get through some tough times. But that doesn’t mean violence and hate and all of the other atrocities our fellow humans commit disappears.

What it does mean, is that binding our words against someone only causes our pain to remain with us and that pain becomes our heaven here on earth. Every time a name or word is mentioned that is associated with something we’ve not forgiven or haven’t been forgiven for, the pain or anger resurfaces.

But if we loose something here at this time, if we untie the knots that are binding us to that wrongdoing, we can free ourselves from the burden created when we decided to carry it with us.

Binding and loosening both have their places. The more we understand how our handling of problems are affected by us when we wrongly hold onto something or let it go, the more we can look at situations in our lives and determine what needs to be forgiven.

We can’t control people who might need to forgive us, we let that loose in prayer. We can control our own heaven as it is on earth by seeking out who needs forgiveness from us. We untie the knots of unforgiving that bind us to them and set that burden free.

Try it. You may feel “looser” just thinking about how that might feel.

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The Rev. Peter Mark Gdula is a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.