A few days ago a friendly reader left a question in my comment box that has stuck with me, and inspired me to respond in a more studied way than I might usually do. Because the topic is so important and so foundational to who I am and what I profess, I want to be very careful how I approach it, and what I say.
Problem is, I haven’t said anything yet! Well, here goes.
As I begin writing on forgiveness I have to wonder whether this makes good blog or not? I’ve always experienced blogging to be something like a flood… a bit less constraining and more personal than well edited writing. Yet with this topic I feel the need to research, study, mull over, substantiate what I will say, rather than follow intuitive leadings. I want to dig in and unearth truth. And, because the reader was looking for biblical examples, I will go to my Bible. This will take some time, so I’ve decided to being to write a series that will not just be off the top of my head. So I hope that’s all good.
I trust that you will continue to ask challenging questions, as that’s healthy for everyone and stimulates good dialogue.
First, the question;
Posted by Suzan on the blog, There’s just something about canceled debt.
“The debt of guilt! Now there’s a concept… I have to say guilt can really rule my life at times. I think more often than not guilt stems from our inability to forgive ourselves rather than someone else. I think for many people it’s the hardest forgiveness to achieve. Are there any stories in the bible that address this?“
While the immediate question appears to have a straight forward yes or no answer, related questions require a deeper look at things. Questions like, “Can we forgive ourselves?” And even bigger, “Can we forgive God?”
The topic of forgiveness is HUGE! More questions pour into my mind. What does forgiveness mean? Is forgiveness necessary? Why is it so hard to do? What if we don’t forgive? What does the bible say on the topic? And, what do we do with that? What do I do with that?
Thankfully I will not be alone in unpacking the topic, but will be partnering with a friend and fellow blogger who is currently digging into forgiveness too. More on this future guest blogger later though, as today’s post is simply a starting place.
Who hasn’t struggled with forgiveness? I know I certainly have, and continue to do so almost on a daily basis. And anyone with children will be familiar with the need to teach this concept to them at a young age, because they don’t know how to do it on their own, nor do they naturally want to do it.
In our family the foundation of forgiveness is based on our faith. As God has forgiven us, so we forgive one another. The Lord’s prayer is a familiar place to find this bible concept where it says, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” For us, the ultimate expression of forgiveness is God’s forgiveness of our sins through the substitutionary death of his son Jesus, as I wrote about in ‘There’s just something about canceled debt’. This is what we hold out as our example and obligation when we consider who and what we are to forgive as God’s kids.
Just the other night I overheard our teens resolving a disagreement… and I heard these familiar words, ‘Please forgive me for ______”, followed by, “I forgive you.” Now they probably don’t always mean what they say at the time, but we’ve taught them that this is what they must say to one another. And, we’ve taught them to ask forgiveness of God for what they have done. While they’ve done something that hurt their relationship with one another, their actions have hurt their relationship with God. They need to make it right with him.
Sounds pretty simple and maybe even like a formula, but it’s not. Because asking of, and granting forgiveness to, another human being means a couple of pretty profound things… like thinking outside the universe of ‘me’ and humbling myself, accepting my mistake, and my responsibility, and my blame, and asking for something I don’t deserve from the other person. Similarly, asking for and receiving forgiveness from God is also profound, in that it requires me to admit that it’s not all about me, accept that I’m ultimately responsible to God, admit my sin (anything that goes against his ways), admit my need of his forgiveness even though I don’t deserve it.
And, in our human relationships, both the recipient and the giver of forgiveness find restored relationship after forgiveness is granted. Again, this might be much later, after the anger has subsided and the rational mind has thought things through. Then, it’s gone. For the most part it’s a fresh start. In perfect forgiveness there is no more blame, no feelings of lingering bitterness or resentment because it’s been dealt with right up front. In our experience, the feelings of forgiveness always follow the words and the choice to forgive.
With God it’s the same. The relationship is fully restored because of forgiveness. Bible says, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”
I’m just scraping the surface here. I haven’t begun to answer the question yet, but I believe there’s a lot of ground to cover first. Please bear with me.
My point is simply, forgiveness does not appear to come naturally to any of us. It goes against our human nature. Faith and forgiveness go hand in hand for me, for my family. The more I read and write and think on it, the more I’m convinced that forgiveness is a God thing, not a human thing at all.
I think that’s all for today. Next postings will look at the definition of the word, and what stories we can find in the Bible that exemplify it, as well as what God has to say about it.
And, I can hardly wait to introduce my blogging partner to you!
Please forgive me that today is not Poetry Friday003. Next week I’ll be back on track again.