Forgiveness puts the onus on the wronged party to overcome the natural human desire for revenge in the name of “justice,” forego sympathy and surrender the moral high ground. But forgiveness benefits both offender and offended by breaking out of the bitter circle of hurt and recrimination.
When we forgive, we concede that the other person didn’t mean to hurt us.
When we forgive, we release ourselves from the burden of carrying a grudge and, equally important, we release the offender from the burden of the action; we can both move forward.
Forgiveness takes the spiritual club we could have used on our offender and throws it into the fire so we can never use it.
These aren’t my thoughts: Jesus Christ tells us, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” He does not say, “Demand an apology and don’t bother forgiving until you get one.”
Now that I’ve brought in Jesus, let’s understand that “forgive” is an instruction from God, who regards us all equal. He expects anyone who claims a “moral high ground” to humble themselves so they don’t become proud. A wrong act upsets the balance: forgiveness restores it.
This is not an airy-fairy, view-from-the-press-box theory. I’ve experienced this – and you may have, too: carrying grudges, re-playing incidents, imagining scenarios where I win. Eventually, I feel like God says to me, “How much longer do I have to listen to this?”
When I’ve taken the hint and forgiven the other person, there has been breakthrough, either in the situation at hand or in some other area where it appeared I had hit a roadblock; ultimately, things have worked out better than one could have imagined – and not just for me. Coincidence? I doubt it.
When you forgive someone, that’s between you and God, unless the other person asks you for forgiveness. If they do, don’t delay. But if you tell them pro-actively that you forgive them, you’re being self-righteous, telling them how they’ve failed, but you’re big enough to forgive. When Jesus says, “don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” He’s not just talking about giving offerings.
Then there’s asking for forgiveness, which I believe is more powerful than apologizing. Saying “Please forgive me” hands someone a loaded gun, giving them the power to decide whether or not you stay under the burden.
Remember that “good” and “bad” usually are what look good or bad to us at the time. Look back over your life and consider “good” things that have happened and see how “bad” things were part of the chain of events that led to them. Forgiveness acknowledges that everything will ultimately turn out for the good.
One of the ultimate “bad” things was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and yet that had to happen, in order for the ultimate “good” thing to take place. Jesus knew that, even throughthe torture, mocking and desertion, and forgave the people who did it.
True forgiveness is an inseparable part of reconciliation. When we forgive, the matter is closed. If one party says they forgive and then revisits the offence, one wonders if the forgiveness was genuine. When we forgive, the only remembering is to ensure the offence doesn’t happen again.
Drew Snider is a writer, pastor and former broadcaster. He spent a decade ministering at Gospel Mission on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side and has been a guest preacher at churches including Westshore Alliance in Langford, Westpointe in Vancouver, The Oasis in Duncan and Port McNeill Full Gospel. His e-book on the Bible and the environment, “A Very Convenient Truth — or, Jesus Warned Us There’d Be Days Like These, so Stop Worrying About the Planet and Get With His Program!” is available through online booksellers. He lives in East Sooke.
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE
*This article was published in the print edition of the TImes Colonist on Saturday, March 18 2017