Why is forgiveness such a powerful thing? In my experience, I have seen people struggle when it comes to forgiving others who have hurt them. How many times have I heard people say, “If you know what he did to me, you won’t ask me to forgive him” or “I can’t ever forgive her for what she did to me, not now, not ever!”
Forgiveness is a core tenet of the Christian faith. You can’t ignore it and you can’t avoid it. Sooner or later, someone is going to hurt you, someone will step on your toes and it will really hurt. For other people, forgiveness might be a matter of choice but for the Christian, it is not a choice really, it is what is expected of us.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But of you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)
The above scripture gives no room for argument. Christians can debate over things like dressing mode, women clergy, worship days or events like Easter and Christmas but one thing that is so clear and un-debatable us the command to forgive.
Jesus was clear in the scripture verse above. If you have chosen to follow Him, then you must be ready to forgive others when they hurt you. This may sound rather absurd, especially when we know people who intentionally seek ways to hurt and cause us harm.
The disciples who followed Jesus at the beginning also struggled with the concept of forgiveness. They understood forgiving someone for unintentionally hurting us on a one-off instance but surely the Lord does not expect us to go on forgiving the same person over and over again? Peter just had to ask, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Peter though that forgiving someone seven times was magnanimous. I guess he expected Jesus to say, “Nah! Seven times is pushing it too far. Strike three and that’s it!” Jesus made him realize that seven times was not far enough.
Earlier today, I read the story of Father Michael Lapsley, a South African Anglican priest. Twenty-five years ago, he received a letter which unknown to him, was a bomb. As soon as he opened it, the letter exploded, blowing his two arms away. He lost an eye and his eardrums were shattered.
When asked what he would do if he were to meet his attackers today, He said, “If I ever met them, I would ask: What do you do now, Do you still make letter bombs? If the answer is no, and in fact I help out at the hospital or I do something to benefit others, then I happily forgive them” He went as far as to say he will be happy to see his attackers go unpunished.
Still fresh on our minds is the deadly attack and killing of the Pastor and some members of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by 21-year old Dylann Roof.
The fact that families of the victims chose to forgive Dylann made the news. It was not what people usually hear from those who had lost loves ones due to the callous actions of others. The norm was to hear things like, “We seek justice”, “he must face the full extent of the law” and so on.
For me, this speaks volumes about the quality of the leadership of that Church. They have not done anything extraordinary as Christians, they have only done what the Master taught us to do.
Dylann has made his own choices and will no doubt face the consequences of his actions. Forgiveness is not the elimination of punishment; neither does it get in the way of justice. What forgiveness does is to show the love of God to those who do not deserve it.
As Christians, we are saved by grace. We did not do anything to earn that free gift that God gave to us. When we came to God with all our sins and rottenness, He welcomed us with arms open wide and forgave us from all our sins.
Did this take away the consequences of our choices? No it did not. Salvation may have been given to us freely but someone had to pay for it. Jesus suffered and died for our sins, He took upon Himself the consequences of our sins so that we can be free to get back into the relationship we lost at the beginning.
There is power in forgiveness. When we forgive, two things happen. We set ourselves free from the bondage of resentment and hate and we also set the offender free from the burden of guilt and shame.
Have you been hurt? Ask God to help you to forgive. It is only in forgiving that you can be truly show that you are a child of God and it is only in forgiving that you can truly walk in freedom.
Steve Popoola is the editor of Biblepraise Newsletter and the founder of the Biblepraise Fellowship Online at http://www.biblepraise.org. He lives in Kent, United Kingdom, where he works as an IT Professional. He currently serves as a Worship Leader as well as Home Group Leader in his local church and on occasion, speaks at invited events. He is the founder of the Biblepraise Fellowship Online Ministry and Moderator/Editor of the Biblepraise Newsletter. He can be reached through His email address, firstname.lastname@example.org