“If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” 1 Jn 1:9
Not so long ago I watched a video entitled, The Power of Forgiveness; a video every Christian should see. In my life as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have learned one powerful principle that never changes: Unless we personalize the problem, violation, or catastrophe we cannot begin to understand how those involved may feel. That message comes through with life-altering results in this video.
The man who compiled the video is 50-years-old, a Christian, and a teacher of Biblical forgiveness. One day, his life was shattered by a young criminal who decided to creep into his Mother’s home on New Year’s Eve. The lights were out so he thought the occupants were probably at a party. He broke a window, entered and let in a friend. During their pillaging, the lights suddenly came on and a woman in her seventies (the mother of the man who made the video) confronted these youths.
What were they to do? Someone had seen them. Using the crowbar that he smashed a window with, one of the young men began beating her on the head until she was bludgeoned to death. Later, on New Year’s Day, Dr. Everett J. Worthington, the Executive Director of the Templeton Foundation’s Campaign for Forgiveness Research said, “I had spent most of the day with my brother and sister, going over what had happened to our mother, never once considering forgiveness. As a matter of fact, in the room where we sat was a baseball bat and I said, ‘If I could get to him, I would use this bat to bludgeon him to death.’ Where was my forgiveness?”
Another case in the video was that of two young men who grew up together and were in their twenties. At a party one night, fighting broke out and a friend of these two was attacked and had a severe head wound. Wanting vengeance, one of the men began brutally attacking every male at the party. He was strong and violent, pummeling all the men he could. Finally they headed to the E.R. for stitches but he wanted more vengeance. His best friend said it was not a good idea and he was not willing to return. So the violent young man returned to inflict more damage and the other went home (they lived together) and to bed.
As he lay sleeping, five men from the party, wanting to get revenge, slipped into the house and stabbed him to death, thinking he had been involved since they knew where they lived. The police were called and he was taken to the local E.R., hoping to resuscitate him. They rushed his bloody body into the E.R. And a team of doctors and nurses attempted to bring him back. After being declared dead, one of the nurses got his wallet to see his identity. It was her son! Her first thought was, what was my son’s wallet doing in this person’s pocket? And then she looked at his face for the first time: it was her son. She is a Christian and it was her turn to learn about God’s forgiveness.
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” We all have something to forgive in our lives.
From the video: Forgiveness has its origin in God, who is just and merciful. As humans, however, we struggle with being just, forgiving, and merciful. Our natural impulse is to seek revenge and to make things fair. Forgiveness goes against what we would do, left to ourselves.
Forgiveness is not about ignoring, excusing, or forgetting a wrong that has happened. It involves a decision to extend mercy or cancel a debt. Luke 23:32-34. Luke 23:39-43.
“We want to see justice!,” Dr. Worthington said. “We have a strong desire to punish wrongdoing even at the expense of mercy. Forgiveness never entered my mind. Truly, with Jesus Christ as our Lord, there is no situation that we cannot forgive.”
The nurse whose dead son she cradled in her bloody arms said, “When we become Christians, we leave forgiveness, anger and hatred right at the foot of the Cross. The Lord reminded me that ALL my sins are forgiven so I have no right not to forgive.”
Forgiving is a choice. Just as Jesus chose to forgive those who beat and crucified him, we must obey God and forgive others. Forgiveness is a gift we choose to unwrap daily and use to heal our hearts and minds. Forgiveness breaks the cycle of hatred, anger, rage and bitterness. If we do not forgive, we are not free to move forward.
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Only God can heal us unconditionally. He wants us to live in wholeness and healing instead of hatred. God can put love in our hearts.
“One of the hardest things to do is forgive ourselves for our sins,” says Dr. Worthington. “How can I have the abundant life? What about my sins? God’s love is available but sometimes we won’t allow Him to forgive us or show us love. God has taken away all our sins. The blood of Jesus cleanses all of us and we must forgive ourselves. God gives us mercy as we forgive. Who am I to refuse to forgive myself or someone else when Christ has forgiven me?”
Eph. 4:32 ”Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Col. 3:12-13 “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Matt. 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Lord God, help all of us see how dependent we are on Your forgiveness, which is freely given and never merited by anything that we could ever do. When we are hurt and mistreated, teach us to forgive the offenders, as you do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
*This is a revised version of a study written in May 2011.