“To err is human. To forgive is divine.”
Thank you Alexander Pope for reminding us that forgiveness is impossible without God’s help. Actually the famous quote comes from a really long poem that is really not a poem at all. It’s the Essay on Criticism (bet you won’t read it now!) It’s no coincidence that another famous quote comes from the same piece: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Put the two together and it’s everything you need to know about human relationships. First, forgiveness has divine power to heal and second, we shouldn’t foolishly rush what is an important and sometimes slow process.
Wounds heal slowly. The Bible tells us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” They still need to heal, but they are “faithful” because they are necessary hurts, intended for our good by someone who loves us. But what about those other wounds, designed to hurt and hard to heal? It is harder still to let go of the anger and resentment toward those who inflict them. If you bear such a wound today and harbor un-forgiveness toward someone, consider these five fruits that come from forgiveness…
When you forgive, it makes love possible
Keep in mind that our English word, “forgive” comes from the Greek word, “aphiemi” which means to let go or release.
Let it go! If you are nursing the wound caused by someone’s words or actions, you cannot feel or express the love that God planned for you. Instead the hurt and anger spill over into other relationships and short-circuits your ability to love. Letting go of the anger makes love possible and clears the way for God to work in you and others.
Forgiveness frees the offender
“That person doesn’t deserve to be free!”
Not the point. Forgiveness demonstrates the perfect love of God, not yours. You become like the reluctant jailor who unlocks the cell door when the governor issues a pardon. You’re just the gatekeeper. The governor issues the pardon. If you can’t bring yourself to set that person loose, then at least trust God to deal with the offender.
Just let it go.
Forgiveness sets an example
After one madman with a gun took at least fifty lives in a Christ church, New Zealand, something amazing happened.
Amidst the grief and struggle to understand such evil, were the words of Farid Ahmed, a senior leader of one of the mosques whose wife was shot dead in the attack. Paralyzed from an auto accident six years earlier, he somehow escaped in a wheel chair and survived. Asked how he felt about the person who killed his wife, Ahmed replied, “‘I love that person because he is a human, a brother of mine, I do not support what he did, but maybe he was hurt, maybe something happened to him in his life. The bottom line is, he is a brother of mine. I have forgiven him and I’m sure if my wife was alive, she would too.”
This is how you forgive.
Forgiveness opens the door to the future
Back to the Future (the title still confuses me) played upon our fascination with knowing what will happen tomorrow and beyond. At one point Dr. Emmet Brown reminds Marty McFly, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” That may be true for a souped-up Delorean, but not in real life. Here we need roads, and forgiveness opens the road to the future by allowing you and the other to get on with your lives.
Not forgiving condemns us to the past and locks the door to the future.
It throws away the keys
It says, “Never more”
It forbids do-overs
It lives in denial
It grasps guilt
It lays still
Forgiveness makes everything possible because it makes everything new. It leaves the past behind.
Forgiveness forces humility
The only words harder to say than, “I am sorry,” are the words, “I forgive you.” We are shamed into repentance and humbled into forgiveness.
So many easier responses than to forgive…
The words, “I forgive you,” are the divine response that echoes the words of Jesus from the Cross: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” That’s a high bar, only within reach of those who lower themselves as Jesus did.
“To err is human; to forgive is divine.”