By Trisha Lopez
Forgiveness is something many of us struggle with or struggle with at some point in life. Why is it so hard to forgive? Many reasons: we feel the person that wronged us did it on purpose, that they haven’t really changed, that there is no point in restoring that relationship with them, that forgiving them is giving them a chance to hurt us again or that they deserve a cold treatment for a while.
Let’s look at an example in the bible on forgiveness: The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Here we have the story of a son, who requested for the part of his father’s wealth to be given to him, while his father was still alive (an action that many would consider rude in this day and age). Upon receiving his request, he went on to gather all that he had, making a trip overseas, and wasting his possessions in prodigal living. Once he had spent all, there came a famine, which caused him to be in need. He ended up feeding swine, and even sharing their food with them! After going through that struggle and coming to himself, he remembered how even his father’s servants had enough bread to eat and to spare. Then he decided to make his way home, and become one of his father’s servants.
Now, put yourself in the father’s shoes; here comes your son, who made you divide all that you have, took his part of it and fled to enjoy his life. Now you see him coming back. Observing his appearance, you can tell that he has done something foolish and is now returning with nothing left. You don’t know what he has been through, all you know is he has taken half of all your hard work and wasted it in the blink of an eye. What is your response? Not talk to him for the rest of his life? Give him a nice piece of your mind? Act like he doesn’t exist anymore? Well, in the worldly context, one of the above responses would have taken place, but we know the story well enough, what the father did was the complete opposite of all the suggestions above. The question is, when we look around us today, are we all willing (like the father in this parable) to forgive each other just like that?!
We are all part of the family of God, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Holding on to something that happened in the past and using it as a reason to not have fellowship with each other is not something we should be doing. Someone said something that offended you? Tell it to them, let them know and not repeat their mistake. Whenever conflict arises between you and a fellow sister, before pointing the finger at her and saying what she said or did wrongly, look at yourself. Why are you affected by what she said or did? Is there something you should change? Could there be some sense in what she said or did?
Our ultimate goal in this life is to do things that will get us to heaven. When we choose to not forgive, we are jeopardizing ourselves from achieving this goal. “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15). For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15). By not forgiving, you also cause the other party to have more sorrow (2 Corinthians 2:7). We ought to forgive, “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (I John 4:20). When we don’t forgive, we don’t show love in any way toward our brother.
Therefore, let us always look to Jesus as our ultimate example. In all aspects of life, always ask “What would Jesus have done if He was here?” When Jesus suffered on the cross, despite all the pain he was put through, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Even in such a situation, He forgave them! I’m sure what we are facing is nothing compared to what Jesus faced. How to forgive that easily? Stay humble. “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).
There is much we can learn by just observing little children. They don’t know how to hold grudges! One minute they may be mad at you for not giving them what they want, and the next minute they have become your best friend! Let us all learn from them and not make life complicated. When a person comes to apologize for what they did wrong, consider the fact that they have realized their mistake and are willing to change, give them a chance. How many chances? What if they repeat it? (Matt 18:21-22). When you avoid someone in church, or give them the ‘cold treatment’, are you reflecting Christ in you? Remember: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment” (Proverbs 18:1).
Before I end, I would like to encourage you to listen to the hymn “We will stand”. This hymn really encapsulates the beauty of being able to be united as brothers and sisters in Christ. Now that you know what ought to be done, know that; “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).