Forgiveness is impossible to do without first having experienced forgiveness and grace! The oft quoted ‘to err is human and to forgive is divine’ is so true. My natural inclination isn’t to forgive but to seek revenge or just out right explosion of anger and hatred. I’ve recently had a couple of friends who have lost loved ones to unfortunate gang violence where the innocent bystander who is the ‘good guy’ just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I know that the outcome of the Dylan Roof intentional massacre of the nine during a Bible Study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston shocked everyone. I listened to the verbal expression of forgiveness of the family members of the nine that were murdered. Their forgiveness didn’t excuse nor minimalize the heinousness of the crime but ultimately showed their relationship with God that gave them the power to forgive. The end result isn’t that their loved ones are brought back but they can experience a peace that frees them to live without being consumed by anger and hatred.
The power of forgiveness is difficult to describe unless you have personally experienced it. I listened to a young teen express their heart ache over a ‘bio dad’ that had continually hurt their mother and them. The ‘bio dad’s’ hope was to see his teen respond when he said ‘I love you’. The difficulty is that this teen couldn’t bring themselves to say something that they didn’t mean. We talked about the fundamentals of forgiveness. Why forgive someone who is truly evil and has caused real harm and damage?
The difficulty is that everything inside you wants to scream out WHY and it’s not fair. The hurt and damage has been done so why would anyone choose to forgive someone who is truly unrepentant? Yet, the damage that has been done in the past will just be multiplied by your unwillingness to forgive. The sad reality is that the anger, hatred and bitterness that are the byproduct of the evil that has been done to you end up controlling you. Yes, the more you think about and allow the past to impact your present life the hurt of this individual continues.
The most amazing experience in life is to come to grips with your own brokenness and hurt you have caused to others. I know as a young Christian I didn’t comprehend the hurt I had caused to God and my parents over my rebellious choices in life. As I learned by the example of friends that being able to verbalize my faults or sins helped me see my need for God’s forgiveness. The power of grace is incredible. Why would God forgive me when I don’t deserve any type of pardon? Why is it the case that God chooses to continue to forgive me when I haven’t learned my life lessons?
As I listened to this teen talk about their life experience I knew that forgiveness wasn’t necessarily what he wanted to see happen. Yet, amid the anger and pain of the past the teen could see that he/she had to decide. This decision would color the rest of their life! The ‘bio dad’ in prison clearly has the hope that when he is released he could reunite with his teen(s).
The power of forgiveness helps you or I let go of the past that has controlled us to be free to experience a life that can make a difference. The tragedy of not forgiving is that you might end up committing a similar type of offense as what happened to you because of the anger and bitterness that has grown up in your life. The impact on the individual who harmed you potentially is amazing. Your choice to show grace and mercy instead of hatred will ultimately touch this person’s life. The byproduct of you stepping out and taking a risk is that the cycle of hurt can stop.
I agree that forgiveness doesn’t guarantee my teen friend’s future with his dad. Yet, the power that forgiveness will play in this teen’s life is ‘priceless’!