In the Kairos program we focus a lot of attention on forgiveness. We do it for two reasons: 1] because in the Bible Jesus devotes a lot of attention to it; and 2] because in the prisons, there are a lot of people who really need it.
To bring this subject into focus: in Matthew 6:9-15, the Lord’s Prayer, forgiveness is a major point of the whole prayer. In verse 12, it says, “Forgive us our trespasses (sins, debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And we usually think the prayer ends with verse 13, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom . .”
But that’s not really the end, because immediately, without taking a breath, Jesus adds, “If you forgive others their trespasses, then God will forgive you; but if you don’t forgive others, then He won’t forgive you.’ (Isn’t it interesting that He doesn’t make any comments about any other verses in the prayer, only about forgiveness.)
In Kairos we have a ‘forgiveness series’. We talk about forgiveness in at least 3 specific talks; and we mention it over and over during the 3 day weekend. Early on, we ask the brothers in white to take a piece of paper and write down all the people they need to forgive. Don’t let anyone else look at it. It’s just between you and God. Why? Because we need to think about all the baggage we carry around about people we have never really forgiven. Often it’s the names of people from long ago, parents, teachers, friends(?), cops, district attorneys, judges, even ourselves. If you think on it, you’ll find that often you haven’t forgiven yourself for things you did that hurt you and/or others.
At the end of the day on Saturday, we have a ceremony. We take the lists, and ‘nail them to the cross’ and burn them up. It makes a very memorable event. As a part of the ceremony, we say, “This ceremony is a symbol of what God does when Jesus redeems you. He separates your sins from you, as far as the East is from the West. When you forgive others, He does the same thing with your sins against Him.” This is a constantly recurring theme in the Bible and in the Kairos program. Forgive so you’ll be forgiven. Have mercy on others so God will have mercy on you.