Forgiveness is intricately interwoven with salvation and healing. In a great scene in John Irving’s The World According to Garp, Helen and Garp are terribly, painfully estranged, she having hurt him severely, both emotionally and physically. Unable to speak, Garp scribbles a note and hands it her:
“I don’t blame you.” After a few moments, he writes another note: “I don’t blame me either.” Then he wisely adds, “Only in this way can we be whole again.”
The Power of forgiveness is rooted in God’s unconditional love for us all. Healing comes as you and I release those who have wronged us into God’s hands.
God, then, does what only God can do and that is heal us and the one who offended us. God’s purpose for forgiveness is restoration, healing, and community. As we forgive we participate in God’s plan for reconciliation.
Jesus was wronged. He suffered on a cross not because he sinned or committed offense against anyone. He suffered because humanity had wronged God and God needed someone to reconcile this breach between God and humanity so peace with God could be restored.
As he hung on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34, KJV). Jesus offers forgiveness to Judas, the High Priest, Pilate, and all involved in his crucifixion so that God would be able to offer reconciliation. Dastardly deeds are hard to forgive; painful, hurtful emotions are hard to overcome; but, the first step to individual healing is forgiveness.
The blame game produces neither healing nor reconciliation; only forgiveness can open doors to brand new relationships.
Christians should seek to imitate God’s forgiveness by remembering that if Jesus had not died for our sins we would not have been able to be reconciled to God. When we realize the price he paid to reconcile us, forgiveness of others should be spontaneous, even when difficult. The God we worship forgives and calls each of us to forgiveness.
Who do you need to forgive today? Won’t you release them into the hands of a loving, caring Heavenly Father?
He cares for you and wants you made whole, but that root of bitterness caused by the lack of forgiveness has to be forsaken. Why not ask God for strength to forgive?
Rev. Dr. Earl J. Griffin, Sr. is Pastor, Mt. Zion CME Church, Minden, LA.