The studies in this book examine challenges we face as we try to forgive and reconcile with those who have hurt us. Let’s face it–sometimes it’s easier to be hurt or angry, to hold onto our sense of justice and pride, rather than let go. But both forgiveness and reconciliation are disciplines necessary for the spiritual health of individuals and communities. In practicing them, we see the reality of God’s forgiveness and his offer of reconciliation to us.
This series of posts will follow my inward thoughts as I go through the book chapter by chapter working through the ideas listed above.
Today in Chapter 4 of Forgiveness and Reconciliation, I was particularly struck by the image of Jesus on the cross, exclaiming with sincerity and love, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NLT). That passage just goes to show that even when we think we are correct in our assumptions or beliefs about people, most of the time we have no idea what we’re talking about. It’s this fact that sometimes makes forgiving someone so difficult.
I have found myself in situations where I have said something that I believed to be correct, when in the end it was not only completely false, but hurt someone in the process. It’s at those times that I honestly have the hardest time apologizing and admitting that I was wrong. But in my own special hypocritical way, I am lightning-fast when it comes to indicating when others are wrong or have hurt me and I’m in the right. Why is that?
Luckily, as Jesus illustrated as he hung from the cross, he is willing and able to make up the difference. The day I asked Jesus to intervene in my life and change my heart, he gently opened the door and lovingly started moving things around, making more space for positive qualities like patience, self-control, and goodness, and packing away qualities like jealousy and pride. Of course, this doesn’t eliminate them completely from my life, but having God there to lean on and ask for help sure makes it a tad easier.
As hard as it can be to break our walls of pride down and let the desire for winning an argument slip from our grip, it is important—no, vital—to let God and his loving, forgiving qualities take the lead. Whether we’re forgiving someone for the first time, or the twentieth time, the Lord still firmly yet joyfully pulls us down on our knees. As we kneel there before the one who hurt us, we are serving them and loving them by altering our hearts to a tune of forgiveness. Even if it requires us to daily kneel before those who have done us wrong, Jesus smiles when he sees us love and forgive them, just as he loved and forgave even when hung in agony on the cross.
“If you hug to yourself any resentment against anyone else, you destroy the bridge by which God would come to you.”