Learning how to forgive others is one of the most unnatural duties we have as Christians. It goes against human nature.
Preparing our hearts and minds for the holy days that lead up to Eastertide – for which Lent is intended – one must consider what Christ Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection was all about. One word comes to mind: forgiveness.
The Scriptures are replete with admonitions about the importance of forgiving one another – like, for example: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Yet Christians struggle with this. People of all faiths do; we are human. But some have a greater capacity for forgiveness than most. And so, I find it curious that the Apostle Paul did not specifically include forgiveness as a spiritual gift in any of his epistles found in the New Testament. Surely God is concerned with our ability and willingness to forgive, and Paul was very much aware of this. In Ephesians 4:32 Paul wrote, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Yet he did not list forgiveness as a spiritual gift. I wonder why.
The spiritual gifts are found in three New Testament passages attributed to Paul: Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10;28-30, and Ephesians 4:11. They are: Administration, Apostleship, Discernment, Evangelism, Exhortation, Faith, Giving, Healing, Tongues and the Interpretation of Tongues, Knowledge, Leadership, Mercy, Miracles, Pastor/Shepherd, Prophecy, Serving/Ministering, Teaching, Wisdom. Perhaps Paul intended for us to understand that forgiveness is included in the gift of mercy, like pastoring and shepherding are part and partial — likewise, serving and ministering. I don’t know.
A person recently accused me of behaving in an unchristian fashion toward them, but said that she forgives me. Be not concerned about her accusation, friends. I’m not, for I know that she was just being hateful. It’s who she is. But her accusation got me to thinking about just what forgiveness, in a Christian sense, means.
Learning how to forgive others is one of the most unnatural duties we have as Christians. It goes against human nature. It’s a supernatural act that Christ Jesus was capable of. And so, I believe it requires a gift of the spirit. When we are hurt by someone, we want to hold a grudge. We want justice. Sadly, it’s hard for us to just trust God with that.
Paul wrote in Romans 12:19, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
If we cannot take revenge, then we must forgive. God commands it. But how? How can we let it go when we have been hurt unjustly?
The answer lies in understanding the Trinity’s role in forgiveness. Christ’s role was to die for our sins. God the Father’s role was to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and to forgive us. Today, the Holy Spirit’s role is to enable us to do those things in the Christian life that we cannot do on our own, like forgiving others.
Refusing to forgive leaves an open wound in our heart, our soul, which festers into bitterness, resentment, and depression. For our own good, and the good of the person who hurt us, we simply must forgive. But this doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean that we have to also trust. It simply means that we will be kind and tenderhearted toward the persons whom we forgive – that we will not seek to get back, that we will set aside blame, and that we will be open to the others’ apologies. It means allowing new beginnings.
In his book, Landmines in the Path of the Believer, Charles Stanley says: “We are to forgive so that we may enjoy God’s goodness without feeling the weight of anger burning deep within our hearts. Forgiveness does not mean we recant the fact that what happened to us was wrong. Instead, we roll our burdens onto the Lord and allow Him to carry them for us.”
My friends, if we trust God for our salvation, we must trust Him also to make things right. He will do so, according to His plan for us, when we forgive. He will heal our wounds so that we can move on.
Please feel free to post a comment in response to this. I would enjoy discussing the subject.