Note: In January 2011 my wife and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This post is part of a series of blogs I have written to convey what I learned while on this life changing trip. You can read about the entire trip in the devotional book Touching the Footprints of Jesus.
After having spent several days in Israel witnessing the deep racial divides that are so prevalent there (click here to read my previous post about that) I decided to preach on the importance of forgiveness. After having a fellow pastor read from Matthew 18:21-35, I shared a testimony of how God taught me the importance of forgiveness. My testimony of learning forgiveness involves a near fatal accident my family experienced due to a drunk driver (click here to read a short version of that story). I then related the scriptures, and my own experience with forgiveness, to the situation I had observed in Israel. It was clear to everyone in our group that the Jews and Arabs have not offered each other forgiveness. Perhaps individuals within each group have offered forgiveness to other individuals in the other group, but as a whole, there has been no reconciliation of any kind between their two peoples. The ongoing friction of that reality keeps both of their cultures in a state of constant tension.
I completed my sermon by asking the group to consider how many individual Christians and/or churches have failed to offer forgiveness to someone who needed it. Could it be that the lack of forgiveness in our lives and our churches is the source of much of the internal turmoil and emotional conflict we experience? Only when we learn the importance of forgiveness can we move back into a place of joy, happiness and spiritual blessing.
Lord, help us grasp the importance of forgiveness today.