Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Forgiveness, a gift

(Reposted as it dropped out of the blog)

Forgiveness is a difficult thing for many people, especially when we have been deeply hurt by the actions or words of others. Is forgiveness dependent upon something else, that is does the ability or the need to forgive rely on something that someone else does first or is it a choice that the one forgiving makes irrespective of the situation - in effect a gift we give?

It seems to me that there are various ways of looking at this. Jesus tells us we need to repent of our sins and accept forgiveness so that we might be born again and travel the road of the disciple. There is Moses in the desert asking God to forgive the people and so not destroy them, the people having made merry the wrong way and worshipped other idols. Then there is Jesus telling Peter that forgiveness knows no limits in terms of repeated offense.

I have often heard folks say that you cannot forgive unless the offender recognises their fault and repents and asks forgiveness. While that may ring well with us and seems to tie up with salvation (If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins ...), since we are told to repent (turn from) our wrong doing and accept Gods forgiveness, is it always the case that we cannot forgive until recognition and a desire to apologise or put it right, occur?

On the cross Jesus asked God to forgive those responsible even though they were jeering at him or had washed their hands of responsibility. We are told in Colossians to forgive those we have a problem with so it would seem that we are to forgive unconditionally. God has already sorted out the price of our wrong doing via the cross, in doing so he offers forgiveness to all who will accept Christ and accept the need for forgiveness. The offer has been made to all regardless of them accepting it. It is in accepting God's gift that we are set free from the cost of our sin or wrong doing. Forgiveness is often seen in psychological circles as a release in the one forgiving from building up anger, resentment and such, in effect removing the chains that those actions or words have put onto us. So perhaps the point is that we offer forgiveness, and so set ourselves free from the impact of someone else's actions or words against us?

What if the person concerned does not think they have done anything wrong - after all those who called for Jesus' execution thought they were doing the right thing? Adding it all together I think we do well to forgive regardless of the state, understanding or response of the person or people concerned so that we harbour no grudge, bitterness or desire for retribution. In effect it is a gift we give. That does not mean we don't need to be careful or sensible about things like boundaries in such situations else we could just become the punch bag for someones anger or angst. It does mean that we forgive as we expect to be forgiven.

 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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