Forgiveness: A vital key

376 forgiveness a vital keyIntending to offer her the best, I went with Tammy (my wife) for lunch to Burger King (to your liking), then to Dairy Queen for dessert (something different). You may think I should be embarrassed by the flashy use of corporate slogans, but as McDonalds puts it, "I love it." Now I have to ask you (and especially Tammy!) For forgiveness and set aside the stupid joke. Forgiveness is a key in building and consolidating relationships that are enduring and invigorating. This applies to relationships between leaders and employees, husbands and wives, as well as parents and children - for human relationships of all kinds.

Forgiveness is also a vital component in the relationship God has with us. God, who is love, has covered mankind with a blanket of forgiveness, which he has unconditionally spread over us (ie, that we receive his forgiveness undeservedly and without consideration). By receiving forgiveness and living in it through the Holy Spirit, we understand better and better how wonderfully and truly God's love, which proves itself through His forgiveness, is actually. When David reflected on God's love for humanity, he wrote: "When I see the heavens, your finger's work, the moon, and the stars that you have prepared: what is man, that you remember him, and of man's child, that you take care of him? "(Psalm 8,4-5). I, too, can only be astonished when I consider the great power and exuberant generosity of God in creating and sustaining our vast universe, which includes a world which, as he knew, the death of his Son, in the place of seemingly insignificant and certainly sinful Creatures like you and me would require.

In Galatians 2,20, Paul writes how happy he is that Jesus Christ, who loved us, gave himself up for us. Unfortunately, this glorious gospel truth is drowned out by the "noise" of our fast-paced world. If we are not careful, we may lose our attention for what Scripture has to say about God's love, which shows itself in exuberant forgiveness. One of the most compelling lessons written in the Bible about God's forgiving love and God's grace is Jesus' parable of the prodigal son. Theologian Henry Nouwen said that he had learned a great deal when he looked at Rembrandt's painting "The Return of the Prodigal Son" intensively. It portrays the remorse of the unrighteous son, the unjustified severity of the angry brother's jealousy, and the inevitable loving forgiveness of the Father who represents God.

Another profound example of God's forgiving love is the staged parable, which is retold in the book of Hosea. What happened to Hosea in his life parallels God's unconditional love and exuberant forgiveness for often stubborn Israel, serving as an overwhelming demonstration of His forgiveness granted to all men. God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Some believe it meant a woman from the spiritually adulterous northern kingdom of Israel. In any case, it was not the marriage one would normally wish for, as Gomer repeatedly left Hosea to lead a life in prostitution. At one point it is said that Hosea Gomer, it is believed, has bought back from slave traders, but she continued to run to her lovers, who promised her material gain. "I want to run after my lovers," she says, "who give me my bread and water, wool and flax, oil and potion" (Hosea 2,7). Despite Hosea's attempts to stop her, she continued to seek out sinful fellowship with others.

It touches very much how Hosea repeatedly took in his wayward wife - she continued to love and forgive her unconditionally. Maybe Gomer has occasionally tried to get things right, but if they did, their remorse was short-lived. Soon she fell back into her adulterous way of life to run after other lovers.

Hosea's loving and forgiving treatment of Gomer shows God's faithfulness to us, even if we are unfaithful to him. This unconditional forgiveness does not depend on how we behave towards God, but who God is. Like Gomer, we believe we find peace by embarking on new forms of slavery; we reject God's love by trying to oppose our own ways. In one place, Hosea has to buy Gomer off with material possessions. God, who is love, has paid a much higher ransom - he gave his beloved Son Jesus "for salvation" (1, Timothy 2,6). God's unwavering, never-failing, never-ending love "bear everything, she believes everything, she hopes everything, she tolerates everything" (1, cor. 13,7). Also, she forgives everything, because love "does not expect the evil" (1, corp. 13,5).

Some who have read Hosea's story may argue that repeated forgiveness without remorse encourages the offender in his sins - it goes so far as to endorse the sinner's behavior. Others may claim that repeated forgiveness tempts the culprit to think he can handle everything he wants to do. However, to receive generous forgiveness necessarily requires the acknowledgment that one needs that forgiveness - and that is so, no matter how often forgiveness is granted. Anyone who claims to use God's forgiveness to justify repeated sinning will never receive forgiveness because they lack the insight that forgiveness is needed.

The exaggerated use of forgiveness suggests rejection rather than acceptance of God's grace. Such apprehension never leads to a joyful, reconciled relationship with God. Nevertheless, such rejection does not cause God to withdraw his offer of forgiveness. God offers forgiveness in Christ to all people, which is unconditional, regardless of who we are or what we do.

Those who have accepted God's unconditional grace (such as the prodigal son) do not engage in this forgiveness. Knowing that they are being forgiven unconditionally, their reaction is not in presumption or rejection, but rather in relief and gratitude, expressing the desire to reciprocate forgiveness with kindness and love. When we receive forgiveness, our minds are freed from the blockages that quickly build walls between us, and we then experience the freedom to grow together in our relationships. The same is true if we unconditionally forgive those who have sinned against us.

Why should we desire to unconditionally forgive others who have wronged us? Because it corresponds to how God forgives us in Christ. Notice the statements of Paul:

But be friendly and cordial among one another and forgive one another, just as God has forgiven you in Christ (Ephesians 4,32).

So attract now as the elect of God, as the saints and beloved, heartfelt mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience; and bear one another, and forgive one another when one has a complaint against the other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so do you too! Above everything, however, draws to love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3,12-14).

If we receive and enjoy the unconditional forgiveness that God grants us in Christ, then we can truly appreciate the blessing that comes from sharing the life-giving, relationship-building, unconditional forgiveness of others in the name of Christ.

In the joy of how much forgiveness has blessed my relationships.

Joseph Tkach

president
GRACE COMMUNION INTERNATIONAL


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