Saturday, July 21, 2012

Scripture vs. Society: Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Forgive (v.)
1.       To excuse for a fault, or an offense, pardon
2.       To renounce anger or resentment against
3.       To absolve from payment (of a debt, for example)
Random fact of the day: There are 109 verses about forgiveness in the Bible. That should mean that it plays a pretty big role in our lives, right? It’s pretty important. So what is forgiveness, why is it so important, and what does it practically look like in day to day life?
Forgiveness is a cancellation of debt or a pardon for a fault and a willingness to reconcile a fractured relationship. And it’s much more difficult to do than it really should be because as humans, we all have pride problems. We don’t like to ask for forgiveness because it hurts our egos and forces us to admit to being wrong. And we don’t always like to forgive because we would rather hold grudges than let go of resentment.
How great does human nature sound when it’s put so bluntly?
Even though forgiveness might hurt our pride and go against our nature, it’s so much better for us in the long run because it brings healing and restoration to relationships. It’s one of the best ways to show and grow love.
So just how important is it to God that we forgive? Well, Matthew 5:23-25 gives us a good idea.
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
God gives us a clear command that before we even come to God, our relationships should be healthy and intact and our hearts are not harboring any grudge or lack of forgiveness. Our relationships with others matter to God because they are a reflection on God’s relationship with us.  We forgive the people that have wronged us in our lives because God has forgiven us.
Colossians 3:13 even says so exactly.
"As the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.”
But this does not come without a warning in Matthew 6:15.
“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
That’s incredibly heavy and should cause us severe spiritual distress. Without God’s forgiveness we are all justly condemned to an eternal separation from God in Hell. That’s what it comes down to. If we hold onto resentment or pain or anger, then it is only our own selves that are ultimately being punished. It’s not about scare tactics or fire and brimstone; it’s about getting from God what you give to others.
Ephesians 1:7 says that:
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”
We have been given abundantly more than we deserve. I think the least we can do is to offer forgiveness to the people in our lives when we are wronged, regardless of whether or not we get a formal apology or there is any remorse shown.  God forgives us of the worst possible offenses on a daily(sometimes even minute by minute) basis. We can do no less.
I am more than aware that forgiveness can be incredibly difficult. There are some things that will take every ounce of strength inside of us to let go of. More and more I believe that forgiveness is nowhere close to a one-step process, but that it’s a very repetitive one. I also have come to realize that my willingness to forgive should not depend on the level of damage done or remorse shown. Something as damaging as prolonged abuse should receive the same amount of genuine forgiveness (and with it, the same clean slate) as an inconsiderate comment. And that’s immeasurably difficult to put into actual practice.
There is a line from a movie called Amish Grace that I find myself repeating in my head a lot. It helps me with my heart and mindset toward forgiveness. It is simply this:
 “Forgiveness comes from an open heart and it comes without condition, or it does not come at all.”
So there’s something to come away with, if nothing else. Forgiveness is what the entire gospel is about; it’s the whole story. It’s important to God because it’s a reflection on Him. And it should be important to Christians as well because it’s one of the best ways to show God to others.

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