Is there any person or group of people that you need to forgive?
Here are some questions to help you find out:
Is there anyone whom you hate?
Is there anyone whom you would like to see punished for something past or present?
Is there anyone whom you are (or have been) occasionally or consistently frustrated or annoyed with?
Is there anyone whom you feel smugly superior to?
Is there anyone whom you would like them to change their behavior (past or present)?
If you were able to identify a person or persons for any one of these questions, you probably have someone you need to forgive. Also remember, answering ‘myself’ to any of the above questions is a legitimate answer, and suggests that self-forgiveness is in order.
Our brokenness keeps us on the vicious cycle of sin and destruction, continuously being hurt and in turn hurting others. In Christ Jesus, we have been forgiven of all our sin and destruction, and so we are now free to forgive ourselves and others.
The concept of forgiveness is one of the most important things we can talk about in church. It is so core to the Good News of Christ, and yet also runs so counter to the current culture.
What Forgiveness Isn’t…
Some folks may view forgiving someone who has done harm as losing, or as letting the other win. Forgiveness may be seen as ignoring the reality of the situation, as in “forgive and forget.” This implies that to forgive someone is to pretend that there was no harm done. So, forgiveness is either seen as turning a blind eye to the actual harm done or acquiescing to the perpetrator of that harm. That is not forgiveness. Granting forgiveness is also not the same as earning trust, or seeking justice.
For others, forgiveness is understood as something I receive more than something I offer. Jesus is the one who forgives sins, not me. Also, some people understand forgiveness as a mutual transaction. One person confesses and asks for forgiveness, the other person gives forgiveness. It is a quid pro quo arrangement. This is not real forgiveness.
What Forgiveness Is…
The Gospel reminds us that while we were still sinners Christ died for us, offering forgiveness. Forgiveness is a one-way street of unconditional, unearned grace. Forgiveness is not an escape from the reality of sin and violence. It is a brutally honest acknowledgment of what has happened and then a compassionate gift of invitation to move beyond the pain.
For further reading:
Volf, M. 1996. Exclusion and Embrace: A theological exploration of identity, otherness and reconciliation. Abingdon Press.