My primary concern with this blog is that we must forgive people for what they have done to us or against us. Jesus said this:
“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).
That does not seem like an option but more like a commandment. Forgiveness between humans is a messy business and I do not pretend to say that it is something that is easy to do. Say a wife cheats on her husband and the husband finds out and is notably devastated. The wife wants (yea begs) her husband’s forgiveness but he does not know what to do. On one hand the Bible commands that he forgives her but on the other hand there is the reality of pain that the husband is enduring. If he “lets her off the hook” then somehow it seems like she got a way too easily. She must bear the consequence of what she did…there must be payment for his anger and her sin because there is a void there.
Maybe on a larger scale the atrocities that happened as a result of Apartheid in South Africa. The racial inequality there mirrored (perhaps exceeded) the racial divides in the southern United States in the 20th century. Violence spread and governments were rearranged but instead of full-scale violence the civil unrest was worked through in a non-violent and peaceful way. Desmond Tutu, a bishop for the Anglican Church in South Africa during Apartheid was involved in the peace discussions and reconciliation talks between races. His solution for the problem was “frogiveness”:
“Without forgiveness there can be no future for a relationship between individuals or within and between nations.” (From “Truth and reconciliation”, BBC Focus on Africa magazine, January-March 2000, p53.)
So what does this mean for us? It means that when we are wronged immediately we are drawn (because of the sinful state of man) towards anger and resentment. We want to hold on to this anger because often it is the only fuel we have that keeps us going. Anger soon becomes idolatrous as it is the only thing we can think about and soon the anger makes a move towards vengeance. We want justice…we want them to pay for what they did. Desmond Tutu again relates:
“There are different kinds of justice. Retributive justice is largely Western. The African understanding is far more restorative – not so much to punish as to redress or restore a balance that has been knocked askew.” (From “Recovering from Apartheid”, in The New Yorker, 18 November 1996)
That is what forgiveness is all about…restoration…a promise of tomorrow…and a brand new beginning. Often when I am struggling with forgiving someone I look in the mirror and ask: “What if you had not received forgiveness for all of the atrocities you have done?” I am reminded of how redemptive forgiveness can be when Jesus was ridiucled on the cross enduring the pain and agony at the hands of the Jews, the Romans and one of his disciples. Jesus could have called legions of angels to utterly obliterate every foe that was before him. Jesus, with his right hand, could have ended it all with just one word. But instead….our Lord said this:
“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots” (Luke 23:32-34).
What do you need to let go? Why are you holding onto this? Just let it go. Move on. Forgive them. Don’t let them still consume you by allowing this anger to burn in your hearts. Let it go. Be free.