TO FORGIVE OR NOT TO FORGIVE?
It seems that the world has become an angry place. When it comes to offenses committed against us or against someone we care about, people are too quick to rush to anger and in turn to allow resentment against the perpetrator of the wrongdoing to build up.
In today’s society, not only are we less willing to forgive, but sadly, we are too quick to pass judgment, cut-off contact with or even seek revenge against the person who has been hurtful towards us.
The fact is, we all make mistakes and if we wish to be forgiven, we need to show forgiveness. More importantly we need to remember that God is the one true judge.
POPE FRANCIS ON THE TRUTH ABOUT FORGIVENESS
Recently Pope Francis said, “Christians must let go of resentments and forgive those who have wronged them so that they may experience God’s forgiveness.” As part of his homily on March 6, 2018, the pontiff pointed out how difficult this can be: “We carry with us a list of things that have been done to us… Grudges make a nest in our heart and there is always that bitterness.”
The words of Pope Francis seem to mirror those of St. Paul, when he said, “Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 31-32).
As hard as it is to share forgiveness with others, to forgive another is pleasing to God. If we are to have peace, hope, and joy, we must follow God’s example. He sent his son to die for all men, including those who put him on the cross.
IN LIFE AND IN DEATH, JESUS SHARED FORGIVENESS
The greatest example of sharing forgiveness we will ever know occurred when – hanging from the cross – our Lord Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34).
Throughout his public ministry, Jesus took every opportunity to emphasize to the Apostles, the importance of sharing forgiveness with others:
- Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18- 21-22)
- When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone.” (John 8: 7)
- Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (Matthew 7: 3-5)
SHARING FORGIVENESS BRINGS SPIRITUAL GROWTH
The next time someone wrongs you or someone you care about, it’s okay to be upset, to point out to the person who hurt you their wrongdoing and how it made you feel – but in the end you must forgive.
While we don’t always forget the wrongdoing, forgiveness allows us to let go of negativity, allowing us in turn to become more compassionate, patient, and loving.
Sharing forgiveness is essential to our spiritual and personal growth. Receiving God’s forgiveness is dependent on our sharing forgiveness with others.
If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6: 14-15)
Consider these final words from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: “God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else.” (Colossians 3: 12-14).