Prays Together: Giving Forgiveness at Christmas

“What do you think, Christopher?” a notoriously divisive family member asked me. I would not take the bait this time. I had been down this path with her in previous family gatherings. She’s nice and cordial in conversation, but when you share your contrary opinion with her, the boxing bell dings and she’s ready to fight.

Thus far, I had kept my mouth shut as she shared her thoughts on this subject. No topic was off-limits for her: politics, gender, world religion, race, family roles, etc. I had shared nothing with her, yet. But this time, she seemed sincerely interested in my opinion. She genuinely wanted to know what I thought about what she had shared.

So I shared my opinion, which was contrary to hers, in the nicest and most polite way possible. But I should have known better. Here came the hammer to crush my feelings and tell me I was wrong, super wrong.

My mom and dad were in the room when the conversation took the harsh turn. They knew what she said and how what she said it was inappropriate and harsh. Later, both tried to console me and encourage me that it was okay.

To their surprise, I wasn’t shaken by the interaction. Why? Receiving Jesus’s forgiveness means I forgive others. Jesus came to earth and forgave my wrongs. What a gift. In fact, Christmas time is the best time to give forgiveness. Christmas is the celebration of when Jesus came to earth—when God gave his Son to the world—to forgive all people of their sins.

Paul told us, “In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than receive’” (Acts 20:34, NRSV). His short letter, Philemon, gives me a reminder about forgiveness. In this letter, I see Paul living out what Jesus had said in Acts 20:34. Onesimus had wronged Philemon, but Paul asked Philemon to take Onesimus back and welcome him as if Philemon was welcoming Paul (v. 17).

Why such a plead for reconciliation? Why would Paul ask Philemon to welcome Onesimus back? Because God did this first, “Through him [Jesus] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:20, NRSV). Christ did it. He paid the ultimate price.

Last year I gave forgiveness to that family member for the harsh words spoken to me near Christmas. And this Christmas I will do the same for another family member. I do so from an abundance, “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:34, NRSV). I have been forgiven by Christ, but I know it’s more blessed to give than receive. So, this Christmas, I plan to give forgiveness to family members, again.

Christopher Scott is associate pastor at Rocky Hill Community Church in Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-730-1906. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church. This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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