Rosamond Herklots on Forgiveness

Bob RoaneJoy and Peace, Repentance, Confession, Forgiveness

Bear with each other and forgive one another if you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:13-14)

An Obscure Poet

Rosamond Herklots (1905-1987) was born in Masuri, North India into a gifted missionary family. She was educated in England, and during the Second World War (1939–45), she helped to educate London’s children sheltering underground during the bombing raids. She began writing hymns near 1940 and only five of her hymns are in print, maybe 100 more remain in typed and handwritten manuscripts. Miss Herklots lived a lonely and simple life and was known for her amazing memory and gentle, old-fashioned humor.

Here is her hymn, “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive.”

1. “Forgive our sins as we forgive,” You taught us, Lord, to pray.
But You alone can give us grace to live the words we say.

2. How can Your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart
That broods on wrongs and will not let old bitterness depart?

3. In blazing light Your cross reveals the truth we dimly know.
How small the debts others owe to us! How great our debt to You!

4. Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls and make resentment cease.
Then, reconciled to God and man, our lives will spread Your peace.1

The idea for this poem came to Rosamond in 1966 when she was digging out garden weeds. She reasoned that the weeds’ deep roots, blocking the growth of flowers near them, was like the bitterness and resentment that can become rooted in us and block our Christian growth in grace.

Hebrews 12:15 says: “Guard against turning back from the grace of God. Let no one become like a bitter plant that grows up and causes many troubles with its poison.” (GNT) Adrian Rogers comments: “Bitterness blows out the candle of joy and leaves the soul in darkness, keeping God’s people from having God’s power and holiness in their hearts and lives.”

True Story from South Africa                                                

Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation which guaranteed that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation’s minority white population. Between 1948 and 1994, 21,000 people died by political violence and over 22,000 people were injured. In 1990, Nelson Mandela and others were released from prison and apartheid laws were repealed soon after. At one public meeting, a black woman asked Desmond Tutu, “Who murdered my husband?” Tutu responded, “We do not know.” She was insistent and continued, “I must know who killed my husband.” Again, Tutu responded, “I’m sorry, but we may never know who killed your husband.” Still she persisted asking. Finally, Tutu asked, “My dear lady, why must you know who killed your husband?” She responded simply and quietly, “So I can forgive him.”2

The woman clearly understands and obeys Jesus’ word. He said: This is how you should pray: …Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors….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.3

Someone may as well go to hell for not forgiving as for not believing. (Thomas Manton)

Sins Are Debts

Jesus says that every human being owes God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) all our love, trust, respect, worship, and obedience forever. Failing to do this is the greatest sin! Yet Christ’s people are freely and wonderfully saved by Jesus’ sinless, life, death, and resurrection. Christ’s love so amazing, so divine demands our soul, our life, our all, so we must be forgiving. “You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God….”4

Daily Confession and Repentance

Jesus has perfectly atoned for all the sins (past, present, and future) of all His Christians. No true followers of Christ can ever lose their salvation. Praise God, He will never condemn us. But we must keep on admitting our wrongs and turning back to God all through this life. We must keep on renewing fellowship with our Heavenly Father after we grieve Him by our sins of omission and commission. We need daily forgiveness, pardon, and reconciliation with God.

Christ comes with a blessing in each hand. Forgiveness in one, holiness in the other. (A. W. Pink)

Small by Comparison

Other people’s sins against us are trivial, minor, and insignificant compared to our gigantic sins against our Heavenly Father. He has loved us with His everlasting love and has sent His Holy Spirit to indwell us to avoid sinful ways. We have such advantages and still we are so imperfect. Jesus said: When you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”5

I have never done all that Christ commanded, ever. So how can I hold others to a higher standard than I hold myself?Unforgiving Christians are hypocrites. Awareness of my own imperfections must make me forbearing with other people’s faults and failings.6

Imitating Jesus

Christians are most like Christ our Lord and Savior when we imitate Him. On the Cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”7 Christians live, and move, and have our being only because of God’s total forgiveness. If the Lord does not hold our faults against us, how can we hold grudges against others and be bitter about it?

Nothing causes us to so nearly resemble God as the forgiveness of injuries. (John Chrysostom)

You may also like: Forgiven and Forgiving (Part 1)  Forgiven and Forgiving (Part 2) Loving Enemies and Forgiving

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Trinity Psalter Hymnal #179. Sung to the tune of “Dunfermline,” Scottish Psalter (1615).     2 This story was told by C. Michael Hawn.     3 Matthew 6:12-15.     4 1 Cor 6:19-20.     5 Luke 17:10.     6 See also Jesus’ “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” in Matthew 18:21-35.     7 Luke 23:34.