The Stone That You Carry

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matt. 6:14-15; NIV

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:7-11; NIV

The stone that you carry, it weighs you down.

We all carry things. Pressure, stress, fear of the future. We allow things to burden us, and to the degree we do, we find ourselves dragged down, emotionally; we are held captive by our thoughts. We cannot avoid life's challenges or the horrible things that sometimes happen to us, but we can choose to let things take over and occupy our minds, or we can release those things and find peace in the Lord.

One of the biggest burdens we carry is the sense that someone has wronged us. It's not just the consequences that we bear, it is the wound left behind. It is the knowledge that someone did not value us highly enough to care for us. The greatest of this pain comes from people we have put our trust in. If this happens as a child, the wound can be difficult to heal. A child has no way to defend themselves from the conclusion that they are not worth being loved. They accept it and internalize it. As they get older, they bury it. If the wound happens when we are adults, from someone mistreating us or abandoning us, it often reopens older wounds of this sort.

The way to find healing is to forgive the person that hurt us. If we carry resentment and refuse to forgive, on some principle or as a defense mechanism, we only put a barrier between ourselves and the Lord. We become the wrongdoers by refusing to forgive. So much so that Jesus says, in Matthew 6:14-15, that our heavenly Father will not forgive us if we do not forgive those who have sinned against us. It doesn't seem fair, but this is how unforgiveness sits with God. It cannot be right to hold anything against someone, for whatever reason, if Jesus' death was necessary and sufficient to pay for what they did. We preempt God's right to cleanse people of their mistakes when we refuse to release them ourselves.

Offering forgiveness can be difficult. The way to find the strength to do it is to realize that you have sinned also. If you have received his forgiveness and know that you are a flawed person in need of mercy, then you can choose to see others the same way. Jesus appeals to this in the case of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. We downplay adultery in our culture, but in his, under the law, this was an act deserving of death. Jesus doesn't dispute the validity of that—he simply chooses to show the woman, and to all who gathered to render judgment, that any sin can be forgiven, and we have all failed in our own way. We want for ourselves what Jesus offered the woman—the chance for a fresh start, if we will turn from our sins.

If you are carrying a burden from a wrong done to you, the Lord is asking you to set it down, like a stone that you hold in your hand. He is God, and will make all things right. To release the burden you carry means that you trust him. You were the one inside the circle all along, with him standing at your side. You just didn't know it.

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