Mark 11:25 – And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (NIV)
"Have you ever had the awful feeling that you have forgotten something important? Did I forget to invite you to the barbecue?" I answered "Yes" to both questions posed by a friend earlier this week. My friend was so busy with work, family, and making preparations for the barbecue that he neglected to invite me. It was a farewell supper for a colleague, so this made my friend feel even worse. He was deeply sorry for this omission.
When I learned of the barbecue from someone else, I felt left out and hurt, but I did not mention this to my friend. Everyone else had been invited, so I am glad that he discovered the error before the barbecue started. It was embarrassing for him to explain my absence to our colleagues, who, of course, gave him a rough time for forgetting to invite me.
I found a bag of red licorice on my desk the next morning. It did not take long to guess that it had come from my friend. I went in to see my friend, and we talked about what had happened. I was happy when my friend said: "I feel terrible."
This experience serves to remind us of four important thoughts.
Although we can accidentally or intentionally exclude people, Jesus always invites us and never leaves us out. Jesus said, "Whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37). It is up to us whether we accept Jesus' invitation or not. Sometimes pride gets in the way, or other commitments, like those who made excuses in the parable of the great banquet (Luke 14:15-23). Was it my pride or the Bible study I attended that kept me from going to the barbecue? Most of the hurt involved with being left out is spiritual pride, the "old man" rearing up his ugly head. Many of us remember all too well being left out as children, and when this happens we feel the pain again. Jesus' invitation clearly includes anyone who is willing to come to him.
It is very important to invite other people to meet Jesus. He said, "Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples" (Matthew 28:19). Spending time with others on social occasions affords us the opportunity to be witnesses. It is hoped that others will see Christ reflected in us, and be drawn to Him.
Just as my friend expressed deep sorrow when asking for forgiveness, genuine sorrow and repentance are a necessary part of asking for and receiving forgiveness from God and others. Paul wrote, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation" (2 Corinthians 7:10). My friend's genuine sadness was evident from the moment he realized his mistake.
I said to my friend: "I may make a mistake that you do not like someday, and need to ask for forgiveness. I forgive you." Today's scripture tells us how necessary it is for us to forgive others if we want God to forgive us for our sins and mistakes. If we fail to forgive others we can permanently damage our relationships (with God and others), but if we forgive them we can make our relationships stronger.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for coming to us in the person of Jesus Christ, the bread of life. Help us to accept the gift of eternal life. Make us ever mindful to be like Christ, always including others in our invitations. Teach us to forgive as we would be forgiven. When we sin or make mistakes, help us to admit our failings, repent, and seek forgiveness. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.