When I first came up with the idea for this ‘spiritual blogging’ week, I figured leading on to forgiveness from pain and suffering was the natural course to take – it’s perhaps more challenging for us than the pain and suffering itself. What I mean by that is; how do you forgive those who have put you through that very suffering? Who have committed the worst crimes, such as murder? How can the mass extermination carried out by the Nazis in the Second World War ever be deemed forgivable?
In our day-to-day lives, it’s more likely that we’ll have to deal with the betrayal of close friends, and personal insults from those around us at school, in the work place, and even within the church (from which a surprising amount of arguments arise).
I also planned these issues to get tougher (and ‘murkier’) as the week went on. Having said that, I think forgiveness is actually one of the clearer points made in the Bible. Everything else can theoretically be debated, loopholes found, arguments lost and won, but I’ve yet to meet a Christian who disagrees with the concept of forgiveness – if they denied it, they would be denying Christ’s sacrifice for us. The reason forgiveness is number 5 on my list has more to do with the fact that while Christians agree that we should forgive, the majority of us find it hard putting it into action (I include myself in this). So really, there’s not much else for me to do here other than make it clear why forgiveness is the fundamental characteristic we must have if we wish to truly fulfil God’s plans for us.
Considering Jesus has already died for our sins, leaving unconditional forgiveness open to us should we merely be willing to accept it, it seems little to ask that we do the same, and on a much smaller scale too. Indeed, the only condition that God gave for our forgiveness was that we follow His lead and do the same; “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6: 14-15) – The Bible is going so far as to say that should we not be willing to forgive our enemies, we jeopardise our own salvation.
Forgiveness is also a core attribute of love (Proverbs 10: 12). The extreme act of self-sacrifice that God showed for us as Jesus hung on the cross was His greatest act of love, and He did it all so that our forgiveness was possible.
Whatever we may have done, and whatever we may still do, God forgives us for everything. If you’re particularly struggling with forgiving someone who has hurt you, perhaps a humbling exercise would be to remind yourself of that. Think of the worst thing you have ever done, then imagine the amount of love that God must have for you, to be able to welcome you into His arms nonetheless. People will treat you as they treated Him on the cross: God expects you to treat them with the same love that He has shown to us (John 13: 34). We have no automatic right to be forgiven. We have no right to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Yet somehow, that’s where we’re going. Mission impossible? Certainly. But luckily, we have a God who deals in that sort of thing.