I listen to a lot of sermons in my job. I read a lot of blogs. And almost without exception, the main message I hear coming from the pulpit today – whether spoken or written – is PROSPERITY. Many Christian teachers and preachers are working overtime to get us to see God as the eternal ATM of blessings and our professed belief in Jesus as the security PIN to access those blessings.
But it doesn’t work that way. You don’t just stumble through life, treating people like crap, and then show up in church on Sunday with your hands out, expecting God to fill them with goodies.
God’s also not going to give you peace of mind or “release you from your burdens” just because you ask him to. But many a pastor will tell you that’s all you have to do – ask, and God will give you whatever you want. And if he’s not giving you what you want, it’s because you’re not “believing” enough. You’re not “bold” enough. You’re not “tithing” enough. You’re just not “Christian” enough.
But, but, but (say those pastors) – Jesus told us all we have to do is ask and we shall receive, and to come to him if we are heavily burdened and he will give us rest!
Yes, he did tell us that, but he also told us that before we put in our prayer requests, we have to make our peace (that is, FORGIVE) anyone we have a grievance against, no matter how big or how small or how old or how new the grievance. If we come to God with any hardness of heart, he will hear us, but he won’t necessarily act on our request. Let me rephrase that – God will hear us, but he will forgive us only to the same extent that we have forgiven others.
Note that only God’s forgiveness brings genuine healing, blessings and peace, so if we only forgive a little, we will only get a little.
Jesus is very clear about this formula – we forgive others (even our worst enemies), and then God forgives us and heals us and blesses us. This formula is written in Heaven as an earthly principle that cannot be undone. It’s just the way it is. You might not like it, the pastors in their pulpits might not want to talk about it, but that doesn’t change the fact that “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” is not just a line we recite; it’s a principle we’re supposed to live by as Christians.
So why aren’t pastors pushing the notion of forgiveness as the key to unlocking spiritual blessings?
Well, probably because most of them don’t know about it, and the rest of them are just plain scared of it.
Because of their own hardness of heart. This core principle of Christian doctrine scares the bejeezus out of some of them because it convicts them, just like the religious leaders were convicted by their own hardness heart in Jesus’ day. Preaching forgiveness also alienates a lot of the paying customers in the pews, which is a big no-no from a church finances point of view.
You’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the grievances that some Christians drag around with them, even pastors. They have grudges against people who did or didn’t do something yesterday, last year, or even decades ago. Many of them still openly blame their parents for their problems, in violation of the Commandment. Then, of course, there are sibling jealousies or spousal resentments or just your garden variety annoying next-door or upstairs neighbor there is NO WAY you’re going to love, let alone forgive, even if scripture tells you to.
Prosperity, on the other hand, is a much easier pill to swallow. Just close your eyes and make a wish and it will all come true, if you wish hard enough. This is the nonsense we’re being taught as Christian doctrine. Yes, faith moves mountains, but not if that faith is locked in a stranglehold by grievances that we just won’t let go.
God can only forgive us if we forgive others first.
There is no healing without God forgiving us.
There are no blessings without God forgiving us.
There is no peace without God forgiving us.
Yes, God loves us even if we hate everyone, including him. But God can’t bless us and heal us and give us his peace if we hold grievances against others.
If we want healing, blessings and peace, we need to choose to forgive.
All the time.
I hope you’re better than the pastors who are preaching prosperity from the pulpits instead of forgiveness. I hope you don’t turn away from this message or pretend that forgiving others for everything all the time and praying for them is not a core Christian doctrine, promoted by Jesus. I hope you remember that God forgives us (heals us, blesses us, answers our prayers) when we choose to forgive others.
I hope you take this message to heart and teach others to do the same.