September 8, 2009

rethink: Forgiveness

rethink forgiveness

Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” What if we rethink:forgiveness in a way that sees it as something to receive and give. Have you ever taken a moment to think about what it really means to forgive “just as in Christ God forgave you”?

Forgiveness is such an interesting thing. On the one hand we want and need it for ourselves and on the other we can find ourselves not wanting to forgive someone for the hurt they have caused us. When I rethink:forgiveness in light of the forgiveness I have been given in Christ, I am struck by the responsibility I have to forgive those who have hurt me. Not only that but as I read Jesus’ words in John’s gospel, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (20:23) I realize the weight of deciding to forgive or not to forgive. Jesus also said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15).

You and I have the power to forgive because we have been forgiven, so why don’t we more often? If I hear Jesus’ words correctly, we’ve got to forgive if we want to be forgiven. We have got to rethink:forgiveness to the point of seeing that we have no place to condemn and instead are called to forgive.

To forgive, really forgive, means convincing ourselves deep down that we merited the wrong done to us. What is more, it is good to suffer in silence. Jesus taught that the beatitude is reserved for those who are persecuted for the sake of justice.

~From Letters from the Desert by Carlo Carretto


Gisele said...

Why don't we forgive more often? Granting forgiveness means we have to hold out a hand to those that have hurt us. It is very hard to apply re-thinking to an issue that usually involves hurt feelings. I don't agree with the Carreto quote at all. To forgive really means that deep down we know that the person merits forgiveness because we, as a Christian community, believe God has already forgiven all. And if I suffer in silence, who will know I need forgiveness also?

Kathy said...

So much discussion in Christianity involves forgiveness, probably because it's at the heart of our faith yet so difficult to put into practice. We have to get past the idea that forgiving means that you let the person who hurt you get away with it. I fully admit I have a hard time with this and sometimes think, "If it's God's place and not mine to judge, it's God's place to forgive."

Matt Lipan said...

Gisele: thanks for the read and comment.

i agree with you that extending a hand of forgiveness to those that have hurt us is not easy. i also agree that it is hard to rethink something that involves hurt feelings and yet despite those hurts it seems like forgiveness should be a part of who we are as Christians.

we might see this quote a little differently. there is nothing i have ever done that "merits" forgiveness. i'm just not that noble, or good, or holy a person. it is because i have accepted God's forgiveness that i am able to be forgiven. i believe God has made forgiveness available for all but we must acknowledge our need for it and accept it. without those crucial steps i remain merit-less.

i read Carreto's quote as saying that i must move any sort of blame, fault or grudge off of the one who had wronged me if i am to truly forgive him or her. i'm not sure forgiveness while remaining bitter or resentful is really forgiveness.

i felt like the "suffer in silence" part was speaking more to the forgiveness we give to others, not necessarily about the forgiveness we need.

some good stuff, thanks for your willingness to share. look forward to hearing more thoughts.

Matt Lipan said...

Kathy: thanks for the read and comment.

forgiveness really is a big part of Christianity huh!?! i guess we should be thankful for that, though like you said, it is certainly not easy to put into practice.

i would agree that we have to move past the notion that forgiveness = got away with it. i couldn't help but think of Jesus' response to Peter when he asked him how many times he should forgive someone, "seventy-seven times" (matthew 18:21-22), or another way of putting it would be "always".

there are certainly consequences as a result of choices we make and as Christians we have to figure out how to be about forgiveness while allowing the consequences to provide the deterrent.

thanks for being willing to share some good and honest thoughts.