"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."1
Forgiveness: The Power to Set You Free
Some time ago in an article in Time2 inspired by Pope John Paul's forgiveness of his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, journalist Lance Morrow wrote, "The psychological case for forgiveness is overwhelmingly persuasive. Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business.
"Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another's control. If one does not forgive, then one is controlled by the other's initiatives and is locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past."
But to forgive is to be free from the past.
Jesus Christ pointed out another disturbing truth about an unforgiving spirit when he said "If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."3
I believe what Christ meant was that an unforgiving spirit on my part is a sure sign that I haven't truly shown remorse to God for all my failures nor experienced fully his forgiveness.
Furthermore, an unforgiving attitude is destructive to personal relationships. It goes without saying that many close relationships, especially marriage relationships, are destroyed not so much by what has been done but by what hasn't been done—forgiving one another.
Wherever I fail to forgive another, a wall of resentment builds up between us and eventually we become estranged. But once I forgive, feelings of love can be restored if that is appropriate. I say "if that is appropriate" because there are times, such as in cases of abuse or a lack of repentance, when forgiveness should not lead to restoration of the relationship.
To forgive another, however, is not to ignore justice. Pope John Paul forgave his would-be-assassin, but the man stayed in prison, and rightly so. And where we want others to forgive us, we will want to do all in our power to make a just restitution.
Even God's forgiveness demanded justice in that he gave his only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for the penalty for all our sins through his death on the cross, for death is both God's judgment and the natural consequence of all sin. Thus the greatest forgiveness we can ever receive is that of God's forgiveness, by confessing our sins to him and asking Jesus Christ to come into our heart and life as our personal Savior. To help you do this, read the article,
"How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian" at: http://tinyurl.com/8glq9
To be continued ... because forgiveness is a process, not an event!
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to become fully aware of the depth of your forgiveness of me so that I will be so much more willing and able to forgive all who have ever hurt me. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Colossians 3:13 (NIV).
2. Time, Jan. 9, 1984.
3. Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV).
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