CrossReads Weekly Devotional: Masks Off, Forgiveness On 6/7/2021

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by Precarious Yates

Last week, the state of Ohio allowed those who have been fully vaccinated to take off their masks in stores and other public places. Other states around the country have also presented this option. Now, this is not a post about vaccinations. I have dear friends who sit all across the spectrum of that debate, and I have my own thoughts and feelings about the issue that I choose to keep to myself. What I do want to address concerns the main issue in this whole affair that sits central to Christianity: forgiveness.

This past year and a half has been a long tutorial on how to hold a grudge, take offense, isolate ourselves, and grasp an opinion so tightly as to lose friendships. Each one of these behaviors is so contrary to our Christian beliefs, but the tendencies have been cropping up in my heart and in the hearts of others who confess that they love Jesus. It’s time to take off our masks of self-righteousness so we can don forgiveness.

One thing I have observed over this past year is how a grudge can be allowed to fester and become septic. The moment we convince ourselves that a person doing _____ should not be in relationship with us (I do not count cases of abusive behaviors), we have formed a grudge. In Matthew 18, Jesus talks about how to treat people who offend us. We face it head on first. Then we bring another person with us. After that, we bring them before the church. If there is no change, treat that person like a tax collector or a sinner. But I have a question to consider: How did Jesus treat tax collectors and sinners?

Taking offense has become so popular that the best way to garner the most reaction on social media is to show how offended you are. If you are offended and angry, people take sides and it smacks of a sporting match. What side is going to win? I see this rampant all across the board, from Christians and non Christians.

Jesus said that we were supposed to stand out and be recognized, and our mark of recognition would be one thing: our love for one another. That is how people would know we are Christians. But how can we be filled with love when we’re filled with offense? How can we navigate our way back to love when we find ourselves filled with offense?

Jesus stressed forgiveness so much more than we usually take into consideration. The conditional language that Jesus employs sounds quite harsh at first. At the end of the parable of the unforgiving servant, found in Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells His disciples that if they do not forgive their brother or sister from their heart neither will their Heavenly Father forgive them. Yes, it sounds harsh. It’s that harsh because it’s that important. It is that important.

Why is it so important? 

Imagine heaven for a moment. The beauty and majesty of heaven is beyond comprehension, so allow your imagination to stretch out to its max.

Now imagine if God allowed unforgiveness in heaven? The most perfect paradise becomes the worst hell when our relationships plunge into grudge-gripped turmoil. The moment Adam hurled an accusation at God and at Eve (“This woman that You gave to be with me…” Gen. 3:12), we instantly see how grudges polluted Adam’s thinking and Eden was no longer paradise.

This past year and a half, many of us have plunged to the depths of human experience: so much loss, so much fear, so much isolation. Anxieties have soared to new heights in the depths of our despair. Psalm 130 has a similar cry:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; 

Lord, hear my voice.

Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy. 

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,

Lord, who could stand? 

But with you there is forgiveness,

so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

When we experience forgiveness, the most brutal dungeon becomes a paradise. This is why forgiveness is so important. It is the difference between hell and heaven. It is the difference between broken despair and beautiful wholeness. Forgiveness is the difference we long for. It is also the difference in which we can participate.

When we forgive, we participate in Jesus’ definition of love. When we forgive, we look more like Christ. When we forgive, we close the gaps of isolation. When we forgive, we turn dungeons into paradise.

This summer, we will see people with masks on, people with masks off, and people on either side of the issue judging the other side, sometimes with humor, sometimes with deep bitterness. Bitterness is the fruit of unforgiveness. Let’s be different. Because ultimately, forgiveness brings healing, deep healing, and that healing is what our world cries out for from the depths of a pandemic.

Whether you can take off the mask or have to keep wearing it, put on love.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Col. 3:13

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. ~ Eph. 4: 32

Many blessings to all of you!

~ Precarious Yates

About the Author:

Precarious YatesPrecarious Yates has lived in 8 different states of the Union and 3 different countries, but currently lives in Texas with her husband, her daughter and their big dogs. When she’s not writing, she enjoys music, teaching, playing on jungle gyms, praying and reading. She holds a Masters in the art of making tea and coffee and a PhD in Slinky® disentangling.

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