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As we forgive those who trespass against us

By Scott Baker

The Episcopal Church requires each new couple to go through premarital counseling prior to their wedding. In an attempt to help me in my preparation to the counseling, I have them fill out an online inventory. It saves me (and them) the exhaustive and time-consuming process of going over all the areas in their lives where they might be experiencing challenges or difficulties. It covers areas such as communication, compatibility, leisure activities, children, in-laws and friends, and finances. Surprisingly, the one area it never touches on is forgiveness. I’ve been married to a very long-suffering bride for almost three decades and the one thing I can tell you is that love may be the cornerstone to a marriage but forgiveness must be the pillar, or even the bedrock upon which that love is founded. There’s not a day that goes by that I know that I don’t mess up in some way. I’m going to blow things in one way or another. And you know what? Although she would deny it with her last breath, so will she. Our ability to be forgiving and our ability to ask for forgiveness is part and parcel to what makes a marriage work. I tell each and every couple that comes to me to be married this one simple but very important thing. Forgive each other. Bear with each other. Be kind and treat each other as you would like to be treated. When forgiveness is extended, what takes the place of the guilt and remorse is peace—harmony—serenity. When Jesus appears before the disciples on Easter day and says, “peace to you.” The peace that the Lord gives is the harmony that they need in the face of all that they have witnessed over the last three days. All of them have turned their backs on him and deserted him. All of them have, in their own way, denied and betrayed him, and he comes offering reconciliation. He offers them relationship to heal the brokenness. This is the power of the Gospel.

To live lives of Easter People means to live lives of those who forgive. We are the instruments of the empty tomb in the world. We are those who embody what the cross of Christ means—we don’t retaliate, we forgive. We don’t hold grudges, we forgive. Yet this only happens when we realize how much God in Christ has forgiven us. If you sit down and take stock of all the things you’ve done and all the things you’ve asked God to forgive you of doing when we get down on our knees and say, “Most merciful God we confess we have sinned against you and our neighbor” you realize just how compassionate and merciful God is toward you and me. And don’t even get me started on those things we’ve left undone. It puts me in mind of a quotation I read some years ago from the book “The Shack.” The writer Phillips wrote, “I reckon since most of our hurts come through relationships so will most of our healing.” That’s our ministry. After the year we’ve had and all the turmoil we’ve gone through, I think a little more forbearance and forgiveness extended to each other is just the healing we all could use a little more of.