weekly theme #45 Forgiveness*
week containing the Sunday between September 4-10
When I read the theme for this week, I immediately thought of me forgiving others and asking others to forgive me. However, the readings begin by focusing on God forgiving me. Even though my sin required Jesus’ death, he forgives me. Who is this God with such amazing grace and capacity to forgive? Even more amazing, he eagerly forgives with love and joy rather than reluctantly with duty and a grudge.
Forgiving is not the same as overlooking. Forgiveness has obligation on both sides. When I offend someone, I need to acknowledge my error to the offended and ask forgiveness. I can’t dismiss it as minor or without consequence. When someone asks me to forgive them, I cannot glibly dismiss their apology as if there was no substance to their request. Maybe I did not recognize or feel their offense, but they did. Coming to me took courage and humility that demands me to acknowledge their offense and respond in respect, love, and forgiveness. Anything less may cause the person to hesitate to ask forgiveness in the future because they may think their offense was not noticed or that the apology will not be well received. The process of offending, apologizing, forgiving, and healing is important and requires respect by all parties concerned.
I’ve heard people say that respect is earned, but I don’t agree. Respect is due every human because of the eternal soul within them. (Admiration, honor, friendship, and other opinions are usually earned.) In this aspect, forgiveness is like respect; it need not be earned, only given. This makes unrequested forgiveness a gift, not something earned by an offender’s apology. In such cases, the gift is first to me. I free myself from carrying the burdens of resentment, anger, and revenge. I may never embrace my offender as a close friend, but I need not grasp them as my enemy. The gift is secondly to those around me. They do not suffer because of the moodiness born out of my unforgiving heart. Finally, the offender may be redeemed through the evidence of my forgiveness. This is a difficult journey to a worthy destination.
I end this week revisiting the start – God’s forgiveness toward me. I need not be terrified of his punishment or even that he will ignore me. He is a fearful God, powerful and righteous, and yet so loving. “All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord! He is your helper; he is your shield.” (Psalm 115:11)
*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections. I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used. It truly lives up to its title.