Forgiveness and freedom

Published 5:28 pm Friday, April 26, 2019

Always forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much.”

– Oscar Wilde

“Get out of my house!” my grandfather said. His brother, my great-uncle Lester, was visiting. As two old farmers they talked about things farmers do: the price of grain, the futures market, the weather and the price of land. My dad had recently bought acres in the southern rural part of Missouri. “How much did he pay for it?” An innocent question, but one which led to the quarrel. My grandfather and great-uncle Lester had always farmed in the northern part of the Ozarks, where the city of Springfield kept growing and causing land values to skyrocket.

“There’s no way he got that much land for that price; he’s a liar.” And for 10 years they neither would call nor talk to one another even though they lived within two miles of each other.

God gave us a huge blessing in relationships. God gave us a gigantic challenge in relationships. The people we love the most are often the people we hurt the most and who hurt us. In our relationships we weave and tangle emotions, expectations, hopes, and dreams alongside agendas, control, power and perception. If we love, we will get hurt. It is the inevitable cost of caring and the sacrifice of sharing our lives with others. Don’t believe me? Didn’t we just celebrate a holiday about the life of a man willing to die in order that all humanity could be in a relationship with God?

If we really have faith in Christ, our faith reshapes our relationships.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Forgiveness is the gift and power Christ gives us to reshape the world. The hardest part of being a disciple of Jesus is not only asking for forgiveness of our own mistakes, but also forgiving the brokenness of others around us.

Jesus spent his life forgiving. He forgave those who asked for it and those who didn’t. He forgave a woman caught in adultery. He forgave a man paralyzed on a mat whose friends had dug through the roof to bring him to Jesus. He forgave a thief on the cross next to him. He forgave those who crucified him. He forgave me. He forgave you.

C.S. Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

When we don’t forgive, we allow pain, fear and situations to lock us in chains. We are incapable of moving forward because of the weight we carry. We are not free, and yet in paradox we have been given the key to our prison. We lock ourselves in a box. We see the world and other people only through our unforgiving pain. The way to find release and freedom is for us to give up revenge in pursuit of reconciliation.

As Hana Malik said, “Forgiveness is taking the knife out of your own back and not using it to hurt anyone else no matter how they hurt you.”

My grandfather was on his death bed when my great-uncle Lester came to see him. I watched as he took off his hat and began rotating it nervously in his hands. “Frank, I’m sorry.”

Aside from the old wall clock ticking and tocking down the last minutes of my grandfather’s life, all else was silent. Then my grandfather spoke up, “I hear you. Have you seen the price of grain this week? Unbelievable.” And with that, the tattered seams of brotherly bonds were resewn.

Forgive. Forgive yourself. You are not as horrible as you think you are. Forgive. Forgive others. We all find the freedom to be truly human when we see each other in the light of God’s love and mercy.

Forgive. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

– Jesus in Matthew 6:12