Some things are always in season.
I was at the mall for some Christmas shopping. I walked by one window display with a mannequin dressed in the latest fashion – stirrups. I grinned as I thought back to my middle school days and my first pair.
Fashion trends come and go. Not so with forgiveness. It’s in constant demand. The DNA of relationships naturally drives the need. All relationships are fraught with tension, conflict, and failures, some more in frequency than others, some more dramatically expressed than others.
And during this time of the year when heightened desires for an idyllic season of celebrating clash with disappointments and interruptions, gestures of forgiveness can initiate healing.
Forgiveness simply put, is the exchange of words accompanied by the heart (will, emotion, thoughts).1
I’m sorry for _____(wrong done, pain caused)_____. Please forgive me.
Thanks for your apology. I forgive you for ______(the wrong, the pain)______.
Unfortunately, the concept of forgiveness is used too casually that its significance and impacts is detracted from. It is uttered in either naïve hope for a quick, conciliatory resolution or from pressure to forgive before considering its cost. And we gloss over its weightiness. Forgiveness involves grieving brokenness and the failure to love and honor one another well. This means it might take time.
Moreover, forgiveness is impossible without God. It originated with Him and through Him and for Him. In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, when Adam and Eve severed their relationship with God through disobedience, God made restoration possible through forgiveness. It would come through the provision of a sacrifice. The first sacrifice set a plan in motion that ushered in Christ’s once and for all sacrifice for us. Christ would come into the world Christmas day “to reconcile to Himself all things”.
So we forgive because He first forgave us.2 We are called to forgiveness because perhaps Jesus knows how toxic unforgiveness is to our hearts. It consumes, embitters, stagnates, and enslaves us. And when unforgiveness breeds revenge, David Augsburger in his book Freedom to Forgiveness writes,
“Revenge is the most worthless weapon in the world. It ruins the avenger while more firmly confirming the enemy in his wrong. It initiates the endless flight down a bottomless stairway of rancor, reprisals and ruthless retaliation.”
Unforgiveness hinders the experience of the depth, beauty, and glory of the gospel. It keeps you from growing in wholeness and maturity.
How do we forgive? Because we can attest to what C.S. Lewis said, “We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it.”
For further conversation on how we go about forgiving, look for the sequel to Forgiveness, The Great Exchange in 2018.
Until then, may the greatest exchange make merry your Christmas!
1 For further reading on a Biblical understanding of the heart read, The Revolutionary Christian Heart by Timothy Keller, February 6, 2015. www.timothykeller.com/blog/2015/2/6/the-revolutionary-christian-heart
2 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." ESV