If we’re riddled with shame or unable to move past our penchant for blame, what are we to do? How can we move forward?
Jesus says the way past the obstacles of shame and blame is simple: prayer, and specifically, a posture of prayer that leads us to have hands open to receive forgiveness and extend forgiveness.
Simple, but not easy!
And this is really, really, really important to Jesus. Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, and smack dab in the middle of the prayer lesson – like a hinge – is “forgive us as we forgive.”
And then, after this prayer template is offered, Jesus reiterates the utter importance of forgiveness.
“If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.”
Simply put, forgiveness is a central component of the gospel that Jesus proclaimed and enacted. The good news Jesus offers is that despite ourselves and our continual failings, we are invited to receive forgiveness. But Jesus says we can’t receive that forgiveness – we can’t access it or benefit from it – if we’re unwilling to extend it to others.
There’s no forgiven unless you’re forgiving.
The gospel of forgiving forgivers deals with our tendencies for both shame and blame. Grace covers both.
Receiving forgiveness from God is the cure for shame. The deep inadequacies and embarrassments we feel are addressed when we pour ourselves out to God and receive love and grace and mercy in return.
And from that which we’ve received, we’re called to extend to others. Extending our hands in forgiveness is the cure for blame. The power of annoyance and anger is taken away when we hold out our hands in embrace and forgiveness.
Shana Niequist writes this:
Part of being a Christian means practicing grace in all sorts of big and small and daily ways…On my best days, I practice grace and patience with myself, knowing that I can’t extend grace and patience if I haven’t tasted it.
W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison say that
The right of the eschatological community to utter the Lord’s Prayer depends, as does the efficacy of the prayer, upon communal reconciliation.
Forgiveness is central to the the gospel and essential to the witness of our community. If we’re not willing to forgive, we’ve missed the message and call of Jesus and we’re not a kingdom-oriented people.
If we’re not willing to receive and extend forgiveness, we’ve missed the good news that addresses both our shame and our blame – that forgiveness is received from God and then, through God, extended from us to others.
This is the final part in a series of posts on shame, blame, and the urgency of forgiveness based on a teaching I gave at Kairos Hollywood. Check out Part 1 (Shame or Blame: Which Game Do You Play?), Part 2 (The Rise of the Anti-Hero: A Forgiveness-Free Society), and Part 3 (Unpacking and Overcoming)