“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.“
There are reasons that the United States after the Civil War did not become a Bosnia or Ethiopia… trapped in a never ending cycle of revenge. David Hanson of Virginia Western Community college summarizes the state after the war so very well:
For President Abraham Lincoln and Congress, the challenge was great: to restore social, political and economic order to a large geographic area destroyed by war and literally turned upside down by the liberation of four million black slaves. Lincoln had advocated forgiveness and promised a quick and easy restoration of the Union. While Lincoln urged restraint, Congressional Republicans favored revenge…
In a world of ungrace, Lincoln wanted to give grace. To give forgiveness. It was this belief that shaped the nation after Lincoln’s assassination. While there were difficulties in the South after the war, there were not the mass reprisals and killings that have taken place after other “civil” wars. Look at the enmity of the Serbians, Croatians, and Muslims in Bosnia, stewing since prior to World War II when, as the Serbian Defense League says:
“The greatest genocide during WWII in proportion to a nation’s population did not take place in Nazi Germany, but in Nazi-created puppet state of Croatia.” (From Genocide in Satellite Croatia, 1941-1945)
Then the Serbs when rising to power proceeded to revenge the deaths of their ancestors with a genocide of their own under Slobodan Milosevic.
Where does it stop?
Well, in a world that wants justice and tit for tat, “it” doesn’t stop. Revenge repeats itself with more revenge. Anger meets anger. Unkindness meets unkindness. Always reprisals. Never stopping.
The only way that such things stop is grace. Forgiveness.
But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
“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.
Great debates arise about injustices, wrongs, and all of the justifications of why a person doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. Or how a person should repent before being forgiven by another person. (Remember, however that our repentance to Christ is an essential first step towards receiving HIS grace. The other person’s repentance is not necessary to receive grace from us!)
However, the greatest instance of forgiveness ever recorded is this:
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
No one repented at that moment. Immediately after this sentence spoken by Christ on the Christ, they stripped him naked and gambled over his clothing.
But Jesus forgave right then and there WHILE the wrong was still happening and BEFORE anyone was sorry for what they did.
He is our model.
This is a superhuman, miraculous thing that so many of us do poorly. Instead of finding grace in church, there seems to be a lot of ungrace.
Secular humanist and novelist Marghanita Laski said just before she died in 1988:
“What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have no one to forgive me.”
Forgiveness is part of who we as Christians are. Refuse to forgive others and you also refuse to receive the forgiveness of God. For he who has been forgiven much, loves much.
I struggle with this daily. But I want to forgive because I become more like Jesus. I want to forgive because He tells me to.
I want to forgive
for when I finally do
and I release that other person from the debt I think they owe me,
that I have set