Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some Thoughts on Forgiveness

Forgiveness is always an interesting topic. For Christians this concept is critical. We are told to forgive others, or our Heavenly Father will not forgive us. (Matt 5:7) This really bothers me because I love to hold on to the right of the offense. This may be one of the most difficult commands that we are given. It was so difficult for our Father to forgive us that this could not be done without the sacrifice of his Son. Forgiveness for God involves the ultimate in self sacrifices.

I few months ago, I saw the movie Invictus. This is a powerful movie and one worth watching. At the center of this movie is the idea of forgiveness. Invictus is about the change of power in South Africa from apartheid to democracy. This was not a gentle shift initially. The new President of South Africa was Nelson Mandela a former prisoner of the apartheid power brokers. Would this be his chance to exact revenge on his former captures? Most everyone thought that this would be the moment of vengeance. Mandela, however, turned out to be the right man for the time. His policy was one of forgiveness.

His ultimate goal for South Africa was one of unity that included his former capturers. He knew that this could only happen through forgiveness. He was never offered a formal apology for the travesty of his imprisonment. He simply had to forgive because he desired more than justice, he desired peace and unity. Because of his sacrifice of grace, South Africa is a free and peaceful country. Other nations around the world should take note of the power of forgiveness. There was nothing overtly Christian about this movie, in fact it seemed to promote secular humanism. This is proof that the message of forgiveness transcends the Christian context. Even secular humanists get it right sometimes.

It seems unfair that the offended party has to forgive, even though the offending party may be unrepentant. The offended have the rights to demand justice and punishment, but for there to be peace and reconciliation, forgiveness must be complete. When some are confronted with overwhelming power of undeserved forgiveness, they must respond.

The command for Christians to forgive is serious business. Forgiveness is for those that do the offending, but it is also for the ones that are offended. Only when true forgiveness is extended does the offense lose its power over us. In fact out of our anger and pain, we must forgive. This is the only way to let loose of anger, pain, and humiliation. I am only humiliated when an unworthy power has dominion over me. Forgiveness looses the indignation. Forgiveness frees the emotionally captive. Forgiveness brings peace. Forgiveness brings joy. You are most free, when you are forgiven and forgiving.

It is always stunning to me when people get angered by forgiveness. Many today find ways to legitimize their sin in an effort to assuage their guilt, when true forgiveness and peace are only a step away. Why do we take the hard road, when God gently calls to come near? Romans 5:6-10 reminds us that God’s sacrificial act was not predicated on our humble posture. It was accomplished while we were sinners and enemies of God.

He cared so much for us that he accomplished forgiveness in the midst of our offenses. What if we would truly grab a hold of the true forgiveness that is found in Christ? We would walk in confidence of our God. Forgiving others would be natural. I maintain that we sometimes hold grudges because we do not understand or feel the full weight of the forgiveness of God. Only when we fully embrace and walk with God, can we fully forgive and walk with others. I am amazed at Nelson Mandela. He laid down his rights for the good of South Africa - and he was successful. This sacrifice was only a weak shell compared to what Jesus did for each and every one of us.

We should grab hold of freedom. We should grab hold of peace. We should grab hold of unity. We should grab hold of love. All this, by grabbing hold of forgiveness.

Lord please forgive us and help us to forgive others.

1 comment:

  1. Don, I know you don't really want people to write who don't have some kind of constructive criticism to give, but this is my favorite so true, so helpful, so clearly said. Thank you. Maurine