Forgiveness

On Sunday we had a Q & A session looking at the question of forgiveness. In light of what has occurred in Nice, France recently and other acts of evil on a large scale, what is our Christian response. Are we to simply forgive? Are we to forgive automatically?
Below is an article I’ve written for a local community paper. Maybe you could read this and give some thought to important questions about forgiveness. Does God forgive unconditionally? Do certain have to be met before we can forgive? What do we do about forgiving people who have died? What do we do about people who have ‘sinned’ against others but not us? Can we forgive them? What about people who we feel have sinned against us, but they don’t se they have done anything wrong?

Forgiveness is not easy. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

‘’The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’

Mahatma Gandi

I wonder what we make of this quote? I think we would agree that no one finds forgiveness easy. The concept has difficult questions that surround it. In the 23 November 2015 issue of Time magazine the headline article was ‘What it takes to forgive a killer’.

The story focussed on the murder of 9 people during a church prayer meeting at Charleston, Carolina in June 2015 and the church’s and community’s response to that heinous act. In the course of the article the follwing questions are asked:

“Can murder be forgiven, and if so, who has that power? Must it be earned or given freely? Who benefits from forgiveness—the sinner or the survivor? And why do we forgive at all? Is it a way of remembering, or of forgetting?”

These are thoughtful and important questions. It seems that we rush to forgiveness, but often questions like these are not asked first. We rush to it (forgiveness) because it seems noble to do so.

Of course the rush to forgiveness is not true of everyone, and indeed in the context of the Charleston shooting there were those in the church who struggled with forgiveness, and understandably so.

The trouble is that forgiveness involves a process, and often in that process some important observations about forgiveness are forgotten. Forgiveness does take time to unpack. Often the act that requires forgiveness has resulted in deep hurts, deep emotional scars.

To be true to these scars we have to acknowledge that forgiveness isn’t about denying that a wrong has been done, it’s not about excusing behaviour and sweeping it under the carpet and it’s not about pretending that the wrong has never been done.

Forgiveness has multi faceted components and they can’t be dealt with here. But an observations is important. Christianity has as it’s most basic assumption that we all have a need for forgiveness and that God offers it. The Bible says a lot about forgiveness. It says that there is a God who is willing to forgive in order for us to be brought back to a healthy relationship with him. A relationship that is ultimately for our good.

But at the heart of God’s forgiveness rests our willingness to ask for it and admit our need for it.

Christianity says more, not only do we need forgiveness but because we have received it from God, we are to be willing to offer it.’