I had to chuckle at the irony of it all. As I conducted research for this article I discovered something that I immediately reacted to with anger: red-hot anger. A Bible Study that I had written many years ago, “The Heart of Forgiveness,” didn’t even have my name on it as the author. It was attributed to someone else — someone with a theology doctorate; someone who was very high-profile; someone who took credit for something I had done; someone who was getting the glory; someone who stole “MY” Bible Study!
Then it dawned on me how silly and ironic it actually was. After all, I was going to write about the beauty of forgiveness and I found myself in the muck and mire of holding a grudge and harboring un-forgiveness. I quickly gathered my thoughts, dispelled the evil that grasped them, and changed my attitude. Furthermore, to whose glory did I write that Bible Study in the first place? Surely not mine!
Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a similar situation — a situation of un-forgiveness. I’m talking about a gut-wrenching situation that causes you to seethe with anger and deep hurt. Perhaps you’ve even said, “I am never going to forgive him!” Or worse yet, maybe you’ve told someone, “I’ll forgive her just as soon as I die!”
I am fully aware, and painfully so, that there are situations in which people have offended each other so grievously that one could hardly ever think about uttering the word “forgiveness,” let alone offer it. It is to those persons, who have been hurt deeply, that I offer this article. It is my attempt to bring some peace to those who find themselves unable to forgive.
In a very pointed way, Don Henley, the famed song writer and singer, discussed forgiveness in his song, “The Heart of The Matter.” He wrote, “I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter … But I think it’s about forgiveness, Forgiveness … These times are so uncertain, There’s a yearning undefined … people filled with rage, We all need a little tenderness, How can love survive in such a graceless age? … There are people in your life who’ve come and gone, They let you down and hurt your pride, Better put it all behind you; life goes on, You keep carryin’ that anger; it’ll eat you up inside … But I think it’s about forgiveness, Forgiveness … .”
I also think it’s about “forgiveness” especially during this time of year. In February, our society is obsessed with romantic love as it surrounds itself with Valentines’ Day. This year, why not rise above the fray and focus on a love that is much deeper? That is the love of forgiveness. Ask yourself, “Is it time for me to act on forgiveness?” I believe it is the perfect time and the prime opportunity for each of us to reach out with love and forgiveness.
Someone else reached above the fray, the anger, the pride, and the selfishness of this world with a single act of love and forgiveness. He reached out to the people of this world who were living in a graceless age. He carried that anger on his own shoulders. He let that anger condemn him to death so that it wouldn’t eat you up inside. He also gave you love and forgiveness so that, in turn, you can offer it to someone who has wronged you. Who is that “He” I refer to? — None other than Jesus Christ.
Imagine, if you will, the burden that you’ve been carrying around for so long finally lifted? It’s a wonderful thought; a freeing thought; a liberating thought; a welcoming thought; a thought that can become a reality.
So, whether you’re having trouble forgiving someone for something as silly as stealing your personal written work or as serious as your own pain and hurt, I want you to know that same Jesus, who readily forgives you and me, offers strength to forgive those who have wronged us.
Therefore, try forgiveness. See how refreshing and freeing it really is. It’ll last a whole lot longer than the emotions of Valentines’ Day. In fact, it’ll last two life times — this one and the next!
By the Rev. Joel E. Sund, the Hospice Chaplain at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia.