The Theme of forgiveness always makes us sweat.
Forgiveness really is hard work.
Two little brothers, Harry & Jacob,
were playing after supper one day
until it was time to go to bed.
Somehow Harry had hurt his brother
and bitter tears were flowing
and sharp words were being exchanged.
The angry acusations were still going on
when the mother brought the kids to bed.
Finally the mother had enough
and she said,
“Jacob, before you go to bed
you are going to have to forgive your brother.”
After thinking about it for a while he said,
“Ok mom, I’m going to forgive him tonight…
but, if I don’t die during the night,
he better watch himself in the morning.”
Forgiveness is always a very hot topic.
Philip Janzee describes forgiveness as an unnatural act.
It goes against every fibre of our being
to forgive someone who has hurt us,
rather than to retaliate.
Christina Van Eyl writes,
Forgiveness is a gift from God. But until the individual learns how to forgive, this gift cannot be fully received.
A woman whose infant son had been stolen from his crib years before had uncovered new evidence regarding the identity of the abductor. The trail led to a Roman Catholic church in the neighborhood, where the mother spoke with a nun who had served the parish for many years. The mother asked her questions and the nun answered, but then the nun had a question of her own.
"Have you forgiven the person who took your son?" asked the nun.
The mother, momentarily stunned at the ridiculous nature of the question, snapped back, "Now why would I want to do that?" …
Forgiveness is an mystery, a contradiction, an exercise that never gets easier, no matter how many times we do it.
Forgiveness is the cosmic struggle between good and evil, all inside our own heart. The odd thing is, there is something in our brains that convinces us that when we forgive, we are letting evil win. Forgiveness demands that we let go of unimportant things and hurts and even deep injustices without insisting on punishment or retribution. It's tough, and in some cases nearly impossible, to allow others off the hook without hurting them back.
When we are unforgiving, we imagine that we are in control, when in fact the unforgivingness has control of us. And the longer we carry it, the more cumbersome it becomes. It takes energy to forgive, but not as much energy as it takes to hold up our defenses. True forgiveness isn't easy, but it is still easier than living an unforgiving life.
Forgiveness is both the work of a community and at the same time intensely personal. Lack of forgiveness impacts the body in countless ways. But because it involves the unseen places of a person's heart, it's possible that relationships that seem fine are clouded by issues from the past.
Jesus says "Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37). Anne Lamott, in Traveling Mercies, writes, "Try as I might, I cannot find a loophole in that. It does not say, ‘Forgive everyone, unless they've said something rude about your child.' And it doesn't even say, 'Just try.' It says, If you want to be forgiven, if you want to experience that kind of love, you have to forgive everyone in your life—everyone, even the very worst boyfriend you ever had—even, for God's sake, yourself."
We are deeply loved by a God who has forgiven us much. We can't really appreciate that until we ourselves have learned to forgive. Deep down, forgiveness can't be faked, and there's no proven cure for the unforgiving heart. But with practice we can move toward forgiveness, edging ever closer to the point when we can truly let go of that which entangles us.
Lewis Smedes says that,
“Forgiveness is a journey,
and it can take a long time before
we arrive at the place of total healing.”
But the important thing is that we remain on the way…
and that we keep our focus
on the ultimate goal of total forgiveness.
With God’s help
forgiveness can turn into an attitude…
or a predisposition towards life,
that enables us to live a full life in Christ.
Luis Palau tells the story of Clara Barton,
the founder of the American Red Cross.
A friend once reminded her about a terrible injustice
that someone had done to her years before.
When her friend asked her about this event,
she seemed very unaffected by the it.
The friend asked,
“Do you not remember this terrible thing
that was done to you?”
“No”, she answered,
“I remember clearly
that I have totally forgotten that event.”
Such an attitude frees us from the shackles and chains
and the death-grip that an unforgiving heart has on us.
Forgiveness enables us to live life to the fullest.
speak to us this morning as we come before as people
who constantly struggle with forgiveness.
We need your Word
that encourages us when we are discouraged…
that challenges us when we are too comfortable…
that wakes us up when we are too much at ease…
that comforts us when we are in affliction.
Give us a clear heart and mind,
to embrace the spirit of Christ
who forgave those who persecuted him,
and even prayed for his enemies.
As we struggle to forgive those who have hurt us
loosen the bonds that hold us captive
and fill us with the joy that comes
from a total reliance on Jesus Christ, our Master. Amen.