For ABC Wednesday this week, F is for Forgiveness.
You’ve been wronged; seriously wounded. The sword has been plunged deep into you. Now what do you do? Most people’s first reaction is revenge. Forgiveness? Are you kidding? That’s the furthest thing from their mind. Forgiveness is a completely unnatural act and goes against everything we assume to be fair. Someone. Should. Pay…and pay dearly.
As you would think, the bible has much to say on this strange concept…forgiveness.
But how do you forgive the unforgivable?
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
But most people don’t find it to be this easy. Forgiveness is not an overnight miracle. Regardless of what they did, the decision to forgive someone or not can either end the cycle of anger and mental reminders, or force one to resign themselves to being a victim forever. Forgiveness is important in every religion and culture.
It’s a huge decision…in our mind. We want to forgive….but only if it’s on our terms….and contingent on extracting that pound of flesh beforehand.
But John Maxwell says whatever happens to us is 10% about the situation and 90% about how we respond to it. When we can adjust our emotional psyche from considering ourselves as victims to seeing ourselves as survivors, healing begins for both parties.
What Would Jesus Do?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
If the sword stuck in us remains there, it will fester into a toxic mess of resentment and bitterness. And that’s a huge mess to clean up later. For those of faith, we are commanded to forgive…and trust that God will restore the relationship. But that can’t happen without taking that first forgiveness step. When we make that choice, only then can we continue to take steps to rediscovering peace and joy, and repairing the relationship.
Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived the Holocaust in a Nazi concentration camp, said, “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you.”
What about forgiving ourselves after a major FAIL?
In God’s eyes, there is no sin that is too great that it can’t be forgiven. Part of forgiveness is coming with a humble, repentant heart and confessing what we did. Sometimes our hearts get really really, heavy with our burdens and it’s hard to lug the thing around. A sincere confession can provide freedom from the demons that are hell-bent on dragging us down into the gutter and leaving us there. Grace replaces shame, and we are washed clean in God’s eyes.
God chooses to experience amnesia. He does this so that, as a holy and righteous God, he can continue to love us unholy and unrighteous creatures. Because of this, the grace we receive when we confess our sins is His gift to us.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
~ Hebrews 8:12
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
~ 1 John 1:9
And there is our role model. If total grace and forgiveness for the heinous things we confess is good enough for God, it should be good enough for us. But sometimes, even though God has forgiven us, we’ve already cut a wide path of destruction. Our actions always affect others. So in addition to getting right with God, asking for forgiveness from the wronged party completes the cycle.
In Christianity, Jesus is part of the Father/Son/Spirit Triune community of God. As God the Son, he came to live among his creation in human form. Through his experiences, he understands the human condition is weak and broken. During his time on earth, he forgave all sorts of evil ranging from corrupt tax collectors to prostitutes to adulterers. He forgave his persecutors while being crucified. And in that moment, he forgave our sins in order to reconcile his creation back to God the Father. His main man, Peter, betrayed him to save his own skin, and yet God placed him as a major spokesperson to spread His message of grace and forgiveness.
Why do we still struggle with this concept in our daily lives more than 2000 years later?
A Jewish parable tells of a king and his son who have a fight. In his rage, the king banishes his son from the kingdom. In time, the king has a change of heart, and sends for his son to ask him to come home. When the king’s men finds him, he answers he cannot return because he is still full of bitterness and resentment towards is father. The ministers tell the news to the king who says to take the following message to his son: “Return as far as you can, and I will come the rest of the way to meet you.”
Whether as the son or the king, we’ve all been here.
How beautiful is that last line?
Submitted for ABC Wednesday