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A Superlative Forgiveness
A few years ago, in one of our big American cities, a foreign exchange student from an Eastern country was beaten to death by a group of skinheads. When the parents came to collect their son’s body, they were mobbed by journalists as they exited the plane.
“You must hate the people who killed your son,” explained one polite journalist.
“No, we don’t hate them, we forgive them because we are Christians,” replied the mother. Parents have shown forgiveness.
As a pastor, it hurt me to see examples of unforgiveness. One such case was a Christian woman who told my wife and I the story of how her husband’s family cheated on her, and how she was seriously wounded in battle and later died in a veterans hospital. Through lies, deception, and misrepresentation, they tricked the armed services insurance agency into awarding the widow and her young son legitimate insurance proceeds to them.
“They have done you a great injustice,” I agreed, “but you must forgive them.”
“Oh, I forgive them, but I will never, ever forget what they did to me!”
A Christian gentleman said of another man who wronged him, “Oh, I forgave him long ago, but I will never invite him home!”
It has been observed that forgiving without forgetting is like a vulture feeding on a dead carrion. Even the atmosphere of prayer is polluted. If we want God to answer our prayers about something, we must sincerely forgive. Jesus connected God’s forgiveness of our sins with the forgiveness of the sins of others. In his teaching on prayer, Jesus said, “Then this is how you should pray…Forgive us our trespasses, just as we have forgiven others their trespasses…” Among the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus preached forgiveness; He makes it a priority. “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you their trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15). ; Gospel Bible; Today’s English version).
Webster’s definition of forgiveness is in perfect harmony with the Scriptures, “Relinquishment of all claims for wrongdoing, and renunciation of resentment for wrongdoing.” CS Lewis “We all say it’s a wonderful thing to forgive until we have something to forgive.”
Forgiveness is a three-step process. In the first stage, Jesus advised us, “‘Therefore consider what you do! If your brother sins, rebuke him, if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times a day, tell him every time he comes to you.’ , ‘I repent’, you must forgive him.’ The apostles said to the Lord, “Strengthen our faith” (Luke 17:3-5).
“So watch what you’re doing!” Jesus’ advice is very important. It shows that we must forgive. We may be like the cartoons we once read for fun. The little boy was crying because no one would play with him. “What have you done?” said the wise mother. They boycotted him from their games when they found out that he insulted the other children’s entertainment and caused himself trouble. When there is a problem between us and another person, Jesus asks us to examine what needs to be fixed and forgiven.
The second stage of forgiveness is found in Luke 17:3: “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” In this passage, the word “rebuke” can also mean “admonish.” Admonishing someone means telling that person what needs to be corrected. But sometimes we must allow God to warn us first before we can warn others.
A woman shared how she was abused as a child. He hated his father until he accepted Jesus as his Savior. Then he prayed that the Lord would lead his father to ask forgiveness for what he had done to him. It wasn’t until he was in the hospital that she visited him. The Lord advised him, “Ask your father to forgive your hatred.”
After an incredible internal struggle, she confided in her father and apologized. With tears in his eyes, the young man begged her to forgive him. And father and daughter reconciled.
The third stage of forgiveness is the restoration of brotherly harmony. Forgiveness tries to reconcile the wronged person with the person who has offended them. In Genesis, Joseph is the prime example of forgiveness that restores harmony. After his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph was brought to Egypt where he gained power under Pharaoh. Joseph was forgiving when his brothers came to Egypt to buy food during the great famine. “Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best land near Rameses… Joseph provided food for his father and his brothers and all the rest of his father’s family. The youngest” (Genesis 47:11-12 ; Good New Bible; Today’s English Version).
This is the famous scientist and educator Brooker T. Washington who said, “I will not allow anyone to hate me, narrow my spirit, and degrade me.”
How clever! Not showing mercy to another person may or may not hurt the other person, but it will definitely demoralize us. When I was a pastor, we lived across the street from an acquaintance who installed solar panels on his roof and converted solar energy into electricity. He used this solar electricity to heat his huge, indoor swimming pool so his family could swim in it even in winter.
I wondered, “What happens on cloudy or snowy, overcast days? Does that mean no power?”
“Oh, no, pastor, the panels still get energy from the sun in those days. I can only close the panels and close the shutters to keep the energy out.”
Looking back on that event, I think that in order to keep our spiritual shutters open for God’s mercy, we must open our spiritual shutters to show mercy to others. Only we can close the mercy seat that God has given us.
© 2006 Joseph Perrello (Josprel)
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