What does it mean to forgive someone? Sometimes on the evening news we will hear about an incredible story of forgiveness, something that sounds impossible. A father will forgive his daughter’s murderer; a woman will forgive the stranger who held her up at gunpoint and shot her.
But, this isn’t what daily life is like. Our lives, usually, don’t have this kind of drama in them. When we are challenged to forgive it’s usually over something much smaller than murder, or armed robbery or personal injury. Sometimes we won’t forgive those closest to us because they won’t do what we want. A friend might have gossiped about us. A co-worker might have received the promotion we thought we deserved. We may have been slighted, talked down to, or cursed at. We are angry and we won’t let it go. Our pride tells us we can’t forgive – that would be a sign of weakness. We spend time thinking about how to get revenge and the ugly cycle of action and retribution sets up in our lives.
Before long we have cultivated a heart of bitterness, and we are miserable — all because we didn’t forgive or didn’t know how to forgive. A theologian once posed an interesting question: Is human forgiveness possible? We like to think that we are able to forgive the small things fairly easily. But, a closer look at how we live our lives might reveal that we don’t forgive the small things. They add up and get harder and harder to let go of. When we can’t forgive others. then it is hard to find forgiveness when we need it.
The world we live in has become more and more unwilling to forgive. People are angry and frustrated. I see it in the media, on the roadways, in stores, in families and personal relationships. In this kind of environment, forgiveness is a challenge. Instead of living angry lives of retribution and revenge where we are tempted to think the worst of others, what might happen if we, as followers of Jesus Christ, offered another way?
All of us need forgiveness in our lives. Are you willing to consider forgiving? What is standing in your way? Human forgiveness may seem impossible, but with God’s help the impossible is possible.