We have been talking about the need to create peace by showing mercy and grace to those that have made our lives difficult. When you develop these principles, you then have to practice forgiveness - letting go of those things that need grace and mercy. This leads to peace in yourself and in others.
But what happens if you don’t let go?
Jesus said: “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46) which implies that everyone that is born will live forever - some in Heaven and some in Hell - but for everyone there is eternal life.
CS Lewis expands on this idea when he said: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.”
Through his writings CS Lewis suggests that the choices we make right now have eternal consequences. What you fill yourself with will determine if you will be a “god” or a “monster”. There are things that bring us closer to God: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23) and there are things that move us farther from God: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9-10) - note this is not a complete list, but only a list of a few things that men have come to call ‘sin’ and have caused people to stumble in life.
CS Lewis suggests that when you fill yourself with good fruit (such as peace) - it grows over eternity until it transforms you more into the image of God. But when you fill yourself with bad (such as anger) - it also grows over eternity until it transforms you into a monster. Since so much of the bad is crowding into our broken lives because of a broken world - we have to let Jesus take it from us — we have to let it go and become the person God created us to be.
Paul expresses this in the the verse that follows his list of ‘sins’ (above) when he says: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 6:11). He was saying that when we unite ourselves with Jesus, God takes away these things that way us down. We are free from those things that make us stumble - but we need to be careful to let them go and NOT return to them.
Genesis 45 tells the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph has just revealed himself to his brothers. They had sold him into slavery in Egypt and now he was second in charge of the entire country. Joseph now sends the brothers back to Palestine to tell their father, Jacob, that he is alive. He gives the brothers this command before they leave: “Do not Quarrel on the way!” He told them this because he knew that the brothers were on the way to confront their father who they had deceived - They had convinced Jacob that Joseph was dead and Jacob had been in mourning for 20 years. Now they had a 9 day walk and they would very likely use this time to argue about who was to blame. This could cause great division within the family - and defiantly would destroy their peace. So Joseph stresses to the brothers 2 things: 1. That everything that happened - good and bad - was part of God’s plan, so everything is forgiven. And 2. If they want to move ahead as a family, they needed to let it go. By forgiving each other and themselves, they could become a united and peaceful family, that celebrates the protection of the son, and grows into the strong nation that God needs them to be. Jesus told the disciples a similar thing - “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
We need to let go of the weight people put on our arrows - but we also need to let go of the weight we put on ourself.
Carl Jung once said: “What if when Jesus said to love the least of these my brothers and sisters, he meant yourself?”
It is sometimes harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others - but it so important that you do. You need to show yourself mercy - don’t punish yourself for past mistakes that you cannot change. And show yourself grace - give yourself space to make mistakes and not be perfect. And mostly - live forgiven: believe that you are loved - GOD MEANS IT when He said it. Let go of yesterday so that you can move into a beautiful tomorrow.
This is Discipleship.