Forgiveness is not the easiest thing to do yet it is probably the most important thing to do in restoring relationships. Real forgiveness can be painful and gut wrenching yet it is necessary. Of course we can try and avoid the problem and locate the cause of broken relationships to many other things.
Today we talk a lot about the need to understand each other and recognise our differences. In other words the cause of broken relationships is simply due to miscommunication. So the better we understand each other the better we will communicate and thus avoid conflict and create peace and harmony.
This assumes, of course, that the other person has “Our” best interest at heart and that they merely said things in the wrong way, or we misunderstood them. Sometimes this is true. Sadly, in so many cases, it is not so. Let’s be honest. There are people out there who are driven by pure and unadulterated greed and/or selfishness and has cause untold grief to others. And no matter how much we try and reason with them, it simply goes in one ear and out the other. You cannot reason greed and selfishness out of people.
How then do we deal when other people’s greed or selfishness has been the cause of much grief in our life? There are two common ways. Firstly, we can fight fire with fire! They hurt us so we will hurt them. But as experience shows this only leads to third world war. Alternatively, we just split up and go our separate ways. This is what happens in marriage. Couples split up or divorce. It sounds nice but all this does is create clique groups that tries to keep ‘unwanted’ people out.
What is the biblical alternative? The bible’s answer is that we need to forgive each other, or at least be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is the ONLY thing that can deal with hurt and open the door for reconciliation. Without this there is no chance. No chance whatsoever. We can be polite and courteous around our ‘enemies’ but there is no reconciliation, no real restoration. There maybe an air of peace but it is only the peace of the absence of warfare but not the peace of real reconciliation.
So forgiveness is the “only” way to open the door to restoration. But talking about it is one thing. Doing it is something very very different. How do we do it? It is so hard. It is so painful. It’s too difficult.
How do we do it? Often we will look for ways to make it easy and not so painful. Maybe we can allow some distance between the hurt and the forgiveness. They often say “time heals all wounds!” but experience shows that this is nothing more than empty sentimentalism. What time does is allow us to bury the hurt but does not deal with the hurt.
So what is the key to being able to forgive someone else? Maybe the reality is that forgiveness was never ever meant to be easy. Maybe that’s just the way it is – forgiveness will always be difficult. Maybe all our quest to find a way to make it “easy” for ourselves fails to understand the nature of forgiveness.
And if this is the case the question is not “How can I do it?” but “Am I willing to do it?”. The issue is not the way to do it but the willingness to do. But our willingness to offer forgiveness also means a willingness to accept the pain that comes with forgiving others.
So learning to forgive is not about forgiving in a way that is easy. Learning to forgive is about coming to that point when we are prepared to count the cost of forgiving someone else, painful as it.
People often talk about loving others until it hurts. This sounds nice and noble but what this means is that once it starts hurting we stop loving . For the disciple of the Lord Jesus this is not good enough. Our call and challenge is to love EVEN when it hurts. That’s painful! Really painful.
Forgiveness is not the easiest thing to do, dare I say, it is probably the most difficult, if not a near impossible feat to do if we are serious about restoring relationships. In fact I would say that forgiving others requires a super human powers. Is it any wonder that the world has no way of dealing with conflict because it has no power to forgive. However, for the Christian person, forgiveness is possible. I’m not saying it is easy. It will still be painful. But it is possible. Not easy but possible. Not pain-free but possible.
But when you think about it, it can’t be any other way. For God to be able to forgive us was not cheap. It was a costly exercise. It cost him the life of his own son. When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was experiencing in His body the cost of bringing forgiveness to a rebellious world.
Being able to forgive is not about finding a way that is easy, but about being willing to accept it’s cost. Until we come to that point there can never be true and real forgiveness.
In writing this I am not saying that I am an expert in this. Far from it. This is something I still struggle with. I have to admit, there are people who have hurt me deeply and, to my shame, I don’t know if I have come to that point of being able to accept the cost of forgiveness as yet.
What should I pray for?
38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:38, 39, NIV.
Forgiveness is not easy, not pain-free but for the Christian person, it is possible for we have one who paid the cost to bring us forgiveness.