“Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.'” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
When I think about a rhythm of forgiveness I think of a steady beat, a continual habit. Never letting an offense dig deep roots in my soul so as to allow bitterness and hatred to grow.
In The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu, he explains the South African word Ubuntu. It is their way of making sense of the world. “The word literally means ‘humanity’. It is the philosophy and belief that a person is only a person through other people. In other words we are human only in relation to other humans. Our humanity is bound up in one another, and any tear in the fabric of connection between us must be repaired for us all to be made whole. This interconnectedness is the very root of who we are.”
The path of forgiveness, offers healing in mind, body and soul, for the one forgiven but also for the one forgiving. Forgiveness allows us to let go of the anger and hatred. As a follower of Christ I am called to forgive seventy times seven which is really saying infinity, boundless, always. Jesus is our ultimate example of forgiving as he died a criminals death for the sins of the world to reconcile us to God.
Corrie Ten Boom, after years in a concentration camp where her sister died, said of her captors:
“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him….Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness….And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on his. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives along with the command, the love itself.”
I personally experienced the ‘tear in the fabric’ within my own family. After many years of holding on to my hurt and anger, I was able to forgive my own father for his deception and betrayal. He never asked for forgiveness. In my mind he didn’t deserve it. But by God’s grace alone I was able to forgive. To this day I still wonder what I would be like if things had been different. Maybe I wouldn’t have had the struggles I had, that even now continue to haunt me. It is something I will not forget, but I must forgive in order to heal. Sometimes the scar seems tender yet the anger and bitterness are gone.
We are all a part of the body of Christ. When one hurts, we all hurt. The tear in the fabric of our community can be ripped apart with anger and bitterness or tenderly mended with forgiveness. “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity” (Psalms 133:1).
Prayer of Response:
“Lord Jesus, help each of us to remember your sacrificial love for us. Help us remember how you died a painful death so that we are forgiven and stand before God without shame. Give us courage, strength and humility to forgive when offended and to ask for forgiveness when we offend. Amen.”
—Submitted by Stephanie Edsall
Stephanie and her husband Mike work for the Navigators as Mobile Alongsiders, traveling to support and resource ministries in Western and Central Europe. Currently they live in Beverly Massachusetts and spend their COVID time renovating a house, gardening, zooming with friends and colleagues in Europe, and being with family. Stephanie is on the Lifesprings Global Leadership Team and serves on the prayer team and conflict transformation team.