Forgiveness seems to be a strange and difficult concept so often in the world in which we live.
Destruction, revenge, and 'pay back' seem to be the order of things and the way culture often understands 'justice' and 'putting things right'.
Forgiveness is tough and difficult. Forgiveness is costly.
When I forgive someone who wrongs me, it costs me something. It costs me something because it is tough. I feel wounded by someone, yet in forgiving them I am able to begin the healing process. It hurts, but the pain is like an antiseptic beginning the process of restoration.
Unforgiveness is like a wound that is torn open day after day with no desire or chance for healing. Revenge is seen to be the best option.
I remember when Sarah and I were first together. We had been asked to baby-sit for a friend and so we went one evening to their terraced house to look after their young baby for the evening. The front door opened directly into the front room where the TV and sofa was, and Sarah and I were sitting watching TV when there was a knock on the front door. I got up, opened the door, and there before me were three men in balaclavas. They charged at the door. Sarah screamed and ran upstairs to the baby. I tried closing the door while they were pushing at it, and then all of a sudden the door slammed shut. I ran upstairs and Sarah was sitting with the baby, who was still fast asleep.
Sarah was shaking and distraught.
A few days later I found myself filled with rage over what had happened. I found out that an armed robbery had taken place in the town and these men who had come round to the house were part of that group. They had used the house as a distraction so the police would come to the house while they were robbing. I felt really angry that fellow human beings could cause so much distress to others. I was angry with them by the way they had upset Sarah so much. Revenge would have gone down a treat.
Then God spoke into my life.
I was reminded of God's love and forgiveness lavished out upon us. I reflected on Jesus hanging in the Cross to bring love and forgiveness. I thought about how God will seek to forgive and forgive and forgive even though we often reject him and hurt each other.
I felt God speak powerfully into my life telling me I needed to forgive these guys. So I asked God to help me. I asked to have the strength to forgive them the way in Jesus I had been forgiven by God. I found myself one day praying for these guys, asking God to pour out his love into their lives. I realised at this point I no longer despised them, but that I actually wanted them to know love and forgiveness.
There are people who have been through MUCH harder stuff than that who have forgiven and found freedom and liberation in that act of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.
It is something we need to grasp hold of in our society. It is something that will transform our communities if we would but seek to be a forgiving people.
Revenge will never lead to justice or peace. Unforgiveness tears families apart and destroys lives with bitterness and hate. Forgiveness will lead us into peace and transformation.
Forgiveness will lead us into the very presence of God.
As Jesus was being nailed to the Cross he called out 'Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.' Forgiveness helps clear the mist from our eyes and enables us to see what life is really all about. It is the road to a better future. Because it is always better to give and to give forgiveness.