Matthew 6:14-15 says, 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.
The other day in my communication and conflict class at TAMU we had reached our last chapter, which is titled, The Practice of Forgiveness and Reconciliation. Going into class I was not looking forward to having to spend a whole hour and a half talking about forgiveness, but it actually turned into quite an interesting debate over what the true definition of forgiveness is, whether or not it is required for somebody to forgive, and then we had a few examples of different situations that have happened in the past which we broke down further to see what was correct.
So what is forgiveness? In my textbook the authors do not give a specific definition, but rather a few bullet points on what the idea of forgiveness is. These are: “You are focused on the present after reflecting deeply on the past. You desire to be free of negative patterns that reduce the quality of your life. You are willing to do your own interior work, regardless of what the other person is able or willing to do." While these are all good ideas of what forgiveness is, I feel like William Faulkner gave a good definition in that “forgiveness is giving up the idea of a better past.” Deep, I know.
After talking to some of my family members over this topic I was able to figure out a deeper understanding that we simply cannot forgive on our own. Yes, you can easily forgive somebody for stealing your pencil, but when it comes to a major event or situation that has just taken place, we have to be willing to extend forgiveness and pray to God for help to help us have peace again. This sort of goes into the next discussion that we had which was whether or not forgiveness is required. Growing up in a Christian home I have always been taught to forgive the person for whatever they have done, but I have never thought about digging deeper and trying to figure out where this came from. The main reason that I began to think about forgiveness was a comment that was made in class. My professor was telling us a story about how during this class in an actual semester (instead of a summer course) she was able to bring in a Jewish Rabbi, a Muslim priest (Imam Khatib, the technical name), a Christian pastor, and an atheist for a discussion panel over forgiveness. During this discussion, the Christian pastor was asked whether or not forgiveness was required. She responded saying that it was not required and forgiveness is a personal thing; that it does not affect God or your relationship with Him. This comment bothered me very badly. I immediately pulled up Matthew 6:14-15 and read it to my class. I did not understand why the Christian pastor would say that.
As Christians we cannot pick and choose things from the Bible to believe. Either you believe it all or you don’t. Now my response received mixed emotions from my classmates so I turned to my parents once I got home for some Godly advice. Both of my parents were proud of me for sticking up for my beliefs and my dad continued to reinforce my statement by giving his own examples. He reminded me of the many verses that tell us to be imitators of Christ. He went on giving examples of different times that Jesus forgave others, specifically the time that Jesus was on the cross and forgave the thief that was beside him. My mom took things from a different perspective in saying that forgiveness is required by Christians, especially if you want to have peace within. As a Christian we do not need to withhold forgiveness from anybody no matter how big the situation. However, you are not dismissing or minimizing what the other person did to you, just completely forgiving them the way Christ forgave us.
My final story will be one that I believe my textbook was wrong in. One story that my textbook uses as an example that forgiveness is supposedly not required or even necessary happened in 2001. It describes one day a woman was with her two children and they were all brutally assaulted by a man who ended up killing the two children and almost killing the woman. A couple years later while the man was in jail he was able to find Jesus and accept Him into his life and sent an apology to the woman asking for her forgiveness. The woman proceeded to ask different people in her religious community if she was required to forgive the man. The final consensus that she received was that she was not obligated or required to forgive this man. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering this woman went through but I have a few problems with the result of this situation. First I believe that we as Christians should have been praying to God for constant peace instead of trying to find it in people in her community. Another thing is that I believe that she should have forgiven the man. It is not something that she would have been able to do naturally by herself, but that is where God comes in. Beth Moore said it best, “Forgiveness takes faith. Some of the people you are forgiving are not sorry,” but “I’m going to believe in God to make it right.” It is not humanly possible to be able to forgive somebody that has taken a loved one, but that is when we need to put our faith in God the most and trust that he will give you peace that surpasses all understanding and give you the strength to be able to forgive the person.
I pray that each day we remember that Christ came as our example and that we are able to fully trust Him with all of our problems, while thanking Him everyday for what we have been given. All in all, in order to be a Christian, I believe that it is required to forgive. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10).
Thank you Lord for your blessings on me. I pray that I never take you for granted and that I can continue to grow into the person you want me to be. Help me to become more like you so people can see You in everything I do.