“How in the world were you able to forgive them?”
I was sitting across from new Greek friends at a lovely outdoor cafe. I had just finished sharing about a time when I had experienced deep hurt, caused by someone else’s decisions. They showed empathy as they sat listening, their faces kind and heads shaking. Until I said the words: “and then I forgave them.”
They were puzzled, to say the least. Their brows furrowed and they leaned in. They listed off the things I had just shared, counting reasons I should still be upset. Though this took place several years ago I can still remember making the same list myself. My new friends were right: forgiveness didn’t make sense.
I had written a paper about forgiveness the week before our coffee shop conversation. So I wasn’t caught completely off guard since I had used this same story of hurt in that paper. My path to forgiveness was fresh on my mind.
“When I think about my life, I’m not perfect either. Sure, I haven’t made the same decisions they did, but I’ve still hurt people before. I’ve been unkind with my words, shown anger, sat in jealousy, and done other things I’m not proud of. But I believe in hope.
“Because I’ve not met the standard of perfection, I’ve been separated from God. Nothing I can do will make up for that separation. I’ll never be good enough. Thankfully my future doesn’t end there.
“God sent his son, Jesus, to take my place as payment for my imperfection. Jesus lived 33 perfect years on this earth and then chose to die for me. His death, burial, and resurrection wipes my slate clean. I am eternally forgiven. Sure, Heaven is a great thing, but what is incredible is that I get to have a personal relationship with God.
“If I believe God has forgiven me for all of my wrongs, I can forgive others too. It’s such a hard process, and even years later I have to remember each day to offer forgiveness.
“By forgiving someone, I believe it doesn’t erase what they’ve done or the pain they’ve caused…in fact it’s acknowledging that they’ll probably hurt me in some way again. But every time I forgive someone I’m reminded that God is so much bigger. Bigger than their words. Bigger than my pain. Bigger than my shortcomings. Bigger than my failures.”
I’m pretty sure forgiveness will never make sense. I’m thankful that God forgave (and continues to forgive) me, especially when it doesn’t make sense.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)