Here is the second part of the teaching from last Sunday. It was great to share the night with Jeanette!
Usually when we think of forgiving someone it means the act of ending some kind anger or resentment. Or stopping that act of requesting some kind of punishment. The most common example of forgiveness is usually between two people or two parties. But the funny thing about forgiveness is how we can forgive without any kind of response from the “offender”. In fact they may not even know of our forgiveness.
A simple example of this is the idea of forgiving someone once they have passed away. You know, someone who has caused you hurt or pain and now that they have passed, you have decided that the only way to have peace is to forgive them.
As Jeanette and I brain stormed for this talk, we talked about the difficulties of forgiveness. What if you need to forgive someone, but hey haven’t changed. The reality is, it only comes down to you. It’s not dependent on the other person. You have to make a choice, What’s more important to you? The relationship now and in the future or holding onto the hurt. It reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son. The older brother becomes angry and says to the father,
‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered away your property comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
And his father replies, “‘My son, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
In this case, the older son seems to think in terms of “law, merit, and reward, rather than love and graciousness as the father did.
Now how do we forgive? Is it just as easy as saying, “I forgive you.” I wish! I wish those 3 words could, in an instant, take away all the hurt, anger, pain. But they don’t, it takes more than this. It takes work and it takes truth. It takes a change of heart.
And sometimes you can forgive … but at what cost?
If I owe $1000 on my credit card, in a sense, they forgive that debt, by allowing me to repay (or not!) and continue to borrow more money. But at what cost? Credit card interest rates are insane and sometimes you can end up paying back more you borrowed in the first place
I started to think about debt relief and the “forgiveness” of debt towards third world countries, but again, at what cost? Now, solving world hunger is obviously not as simple as we’d like to think, but there has to be a different way. We give debt relief, but only enough so that they are temporarily sustained. So again they have to ask for more. I realize I’m just scratching the surface of this big political and justice issue, but we as the rich countries offer this relief, yet often keep enough control that we are not actually setting them free.
What would it look like to provide debt relief in the form of education, awareness, and solutions instead of the current band aide solution of debt relief
Think about your own life. Is there a time when you offered a sort of band aide forgiveness? When you don’t really mean it? When you had or have to keep on forgiving?
I provided a few examples of forgiveness in my own life during our talk at the Commons. Now my examples of forgiveness were over more trivial things, and I understand that there is much greater hurt in this world. So how to we get past it all to forgive? Colossians 3:13 says,
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”
Think of all the transgressions in our own lives. Think hard …. we know that if we ask the Lord to forgive us, he will. And he has asked us to do the same. In those impossible cases, we must trust God to do the work in us that needs to be done so that we can forgive.
We can know when forgiveness has taken place because of the freedom that comes as a result. The truth is, we are the ones who suffer most when we choose not to forgive. Whether we are talking about forgiving someone else or forgiving ourselves. When we ask God to help us forgive, he can release our hearts free from the anger, bitterness, resentment and hurt that previously previously imprisoned us.
Did you know that there is actually an Institute of Forgiveness. In Wisconsin they have the International Forgiveness Institute. There was a lot of studies actually done on forgiveness leading to some results that aren’t surprising, like people who forgive are generally happier and healthier. But something it did point out to me was the predictors of forgiveness. The idea that there are certain traits or variables that affect the likelihood of forgiveness.
One that is relevant to us is the idea that the more selfless and empathetic you are, the more likely you are able to forgive. These are qualities I’m sure we all strive for … to think of others first and to put ourselves in their shoes. It is through these qualities that we are better able to look beyond our own front door and reach that forgiveness.
Also relevant to our community is the notion that the more heavily invested you are in the relationship the greater the possibility of forgiveness. And this makes sense. The more important the relationship is to you, the more you are going to work at it. And its just one more reason for us all to invest in ourselves as a community, building connections and strengthening relationships so that in the face of anger, or conflict, we will intuitively try to forgive and not just let relationships fizzle out and let issues go unresolved.
So today, I’d like us all to remember that forgiveness (whether of ourselves or someone else) comes down to you. You have the power to forgive and it can’t be dependent on someone else’s actions. Forgiveness is not easy … and this is why we need to ask the Lord for help. He will help us forgive and release the anger and resentment the gets in the way of freedom, love and graciousness.