Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32.
Why is forgiving so difficult? Few of the stories of injustice end in forgiveness; usually it’s a cry for revenge, or at least justice to provide “closure” to the incident. My mind goes back to a number of Amish children killed in a schoolhouse some years ago; some of you will remember it. In this remarkable episode the community came together and issued a statement that they would forgive the perpetrator.
Did this mean that the killer got away free? Unlikely, as he had to answer to the law, not the parents. The Amish understood that God is the avenger, in most cases by the authorities He has instituted, Romans 13:1–7. What was important for the community was that smouldering anger and resentment did not interfere with their service to God and one another.
That doesn’t mean that it was all over for them after a few words. Injustice and grief like that creates difficult tensions in our spirit and takes time to process. I’m sure that many of you have had to deal with some form of violence or violation that took time to forgive, but you experienced that relief and peace that floods the soul when the anger is finally shed.
It’s when we realize our greater sin against God is forgiven, we may sense a bond with, even compassion for, the perpetrators. They may not accept our forgiveness, even deny their fault against us, but forgiveness in our hearts provides peace to ourselves, as much as to them.
Can you identify with that?