Saturday, May 31, 2014
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” ― C.S. Lewis
For true Christians, forgiveness is not an option. When Christ is teaching His disciples what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father” he says this: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14,15) He is not vague about this, but very, very clear. Mark Twain is rumored to have said that it was not the difficult parts of the Bible that caused him problems—it was the parts that were crystal clear. Well, this is crystal clear. If you do not forgive, then God will not forgive your sins. These are hard words, but I didn’t write them, however, as they were spoken by the Son of God, God Incarnate in the Flesh, I don’t see how I can pretend they weren’t spoken or have no real meaning. It is very hard to forgive some people, especially people who have hurt ones that you love or have murdered millions, or abused even one child. Yet we must hate the sin, but forgive the sinner. During my over twenty years as a pastor, the best thing I could ever do to ease the pain of divorce was to suggest forgiveness for the ex as a liberating and almost joyous thing. It worked so often and so well, people thought I was an incredible counselor, yet I was just quoting Jesus. Yesterday, there was a funeral for a man who had caused me and my family great pain, and he was eventually ejected from the church because of his behavior. I had given him gifts and helped him in many ways yet he turned on me in vicious ways. He drank a lot, had diabetes which he refused to treat, and a couple of years ago, had a leg amputated as a result—which he blamed on me. For his funeral, I paid for the coffin, paid for the food for all who came, provided my car and driver to take the family the one hundred kilometers to the man’s home village for burial. I also paid for the bus fares for the two pastors and evangelists who performed the service. I was too ill to attend myself (diabetes ironically), but I had forgiven this man years ago. I never wanted him to continue to drink and prayed for him during his amputation (which I helped pay for, anonymously). I was truly sad at his passing for I don’t think he ever forgave those he blamed (I wasn’t alone in his hatred) and was probably not able to be forgiven by God—if we are to believe Christ, and how can we not forgive. Christ forgave those who crucified Him, how can we not forgive those who hurt us. We must still protect ourselves from those who would do evil, and make sure that the laws are enforced, but nothing should stop us from forgiving—it is the thing that keeps us from being slaves to evil. Carrie Fisher once said about hating people, “It is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.” Forgiveness isn’t amnesty, for I will forgive my child for breaking my window, but he will pay to have it replaced. That’s just logical consequences, but I will not hate him or wish him ill because of his actions. It is a hard lesson to learn, but one that is necessary and liberating at the same time.