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By ED MEYERS
Someone said, “To err is human and to forgive is divine.” We humans seem to err easily, but often need divine help to forgive. Have you ever struggled with forgiving someone? We all have. There are several reasons.
Forgiveness seems to let people off the hook. How can justice be served when forgiveness is given? Forgiveness means the debt incurred through the offense is dismissed. That is a huge gift and is often undeserved, even when someone apologizes and offers restitution. A murderer may be convicted and sentenced, but it does not bring back the victim, yet we say justice has been served. The loss is still there. However, just because you forgive does not mean you don’t file charges, secure a restraining order, or take some other appropriate action. An assertive response to an offender does not nullify genuine forgiveness.
Furthermore, it’s hard to forgive when we think the offender does not deserve to be forgiven. It may be easier to forgive someone we love and trust. It may be more difficult to forgive someone who has not earned our respect or has just lost it through their actions. We quickly judge and condemn people who hurt us. We often see ourselves as superior to the offender. We are both sinners made in the image of God and greatly loved by him. Didn’t Jesus say, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone?”
Finally, sometimes we don’t feel like forgiving. We must understand forgiveness is the act of the will regardless of feelings. It helps to feel like forgiving, but it’s not required. An apology is nice, but not a necessary prerequisite to forgiveness. Also, we may feel withholding forgiveness seems to punish the offender. ln reality, unforgiveness does more damage to ourselves. Someone said, “Choosing not to forgive is like eating rat poison and expecting the rat to die.”
Divine power is available when forgiveness is especially difficult. In the Bible, 2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” Affirm God’s forgiveness and his command to forgive others. Colossians 3:13 says, “Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.” Leave vengeance to God. In Romans 12:19 it says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.” Start practicing Luke 6:27-29, “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you … bless … pray for them … turn the other cheek.”
To hear the words, “I forgive you,” and notice an immediate restoration of a loving attitude is a lifeline in any marriage and family. Without forgiveness, relationships deteriorate. We find freedom when we forgive, especially in the most difficult of situations. Sometimes it’s the only way to move forward. Forgiveness is one of God’s specialties. It needs to be one of ours, also, because it is so often needed.
Dr. Ed Meyers is pastor of First Baptist Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.