for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do
3 Nephi 27:21
One of the most attractive aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in my opinion, is that it isn’t just a set of rules or philosophies put down by someone great, but instead a set of teachings AND a set of examples of putting those teachings in to practice in the life of the teacher.
When Christ says, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”, he shows us what mercy is. He blessed and healed the sick. He raised the son of a widow from the dead. He stopped his busy days to heal lepers. And more.
Peter came to the Master wondering something that all of us have wondered at some point in our lives about someone who has wronged us.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Like Peter, we hold grudges and we wonder if we’re justified in doing so. I know I sometimes feel very justified in holding a grudge.
But there’s a special kind of grudge I’m thinking about that is different than the normal kind. Many of us carry it around and wonder if we can ever let it go. Or maybe we feel like it is justified since the grudge is against ourselves.
…but of you it is required to forgive all men. – Doctrine and Covenants 64:10
All men includes us. We are taught to forgive ourselves.
We sin, we all have. We feel the guilt, the effects of our choices. We repent and turn our hearts back to Christ and his Gospel. We change our ways. But then we sin again. And again. And though our sins maybe lessen in severity or direct consequence, we do indeed sin. And for those of us who came to Christ with a heavy burden at the beginning, a burden that feels unfair to shift on to Him who willingly took upon himself the consequences of our sins, we hold a grudge against ourselves and refuse to accept immediate forgiveness. Maybe we wonder when that temptation is going to rear its ugly head again and we succumb. So we put limits on the amount of forgiveness we will accept, as if the Lord is only willing to mete out a little forgiveness to those who are still struggling against things like old habits and addictions. We repent daily, but we don’t accept daily forgiveness. We don’t let our conscience be clean, even when that cleansing is offered.
But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven. – Moroni 6:8
There’s no qualifying statement there, except that forgiveness be sought and repentance be sincere.
Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. – Doctrine and Covenants 58:42
He says he won’t remember our sins, and will forgive us. Yet we so often forget to forgive and go on remembering our sins.
I believe the Lord is willing to forgive us even if we forsake our sins for ten minutes, but continue trying, fighting against temptation.
When the woman caught in adultery faced her accusers and ended up alone with the Lord, I’m sure she wasn’t thinking about asking Him for forgiveness. I’m pretty sure she was just concerned that she was going to lose her life by stoning. Yet He reached out and said, “neither do I condemn thee:” If that isn’t forgiveness, I don’t know what is. Yes, he joined that with, “go, and sin no more.”
And clearly he wants us to give up our sins and serve Him through service to our neighbors and friends and enemies and despiteful users.
But what he wants most of all is for us to turn our hearts to Him and live in the Spirit of his Gospel, doing what He did: serving, loving, forgiving, helping.
If on the cross he can say, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.“, can we do any less?
What about forgiving others is so much easier than forgiving ourselves?
Is it that we feel like we knew better?
Could be held to a higher standard?
That we somehow should be immune from the kind of mistakes that necessitate repentance?
That our participation in His church instantly perfects us?
Whatever it is, it is hindering our ability to receive the peace of conscience that He wants us to have.
He wants us to feel forgiven.
He wants us to lift up our heads and rejoice because of His atonement of our sins.
He wants us to know that the work has been done, so let Him do the work in us!
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. – Isaiah 49:15
…how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not. – 3 Nephi 10:5
Christ loves you. He wants you to repent, and in Him you can find peace, and finally forgive yourself for all of your awful past, even the past of ten seconds ago.
He can change our hearts, if we bring them to Him.
Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. – Alma 5:33