We know God forgives us, but we have to also reach out and forgive one another, for if our hearts are full of anger and hatred, there will be no room for Christ. I’d like to share three ideas with you about forgiveness.
First of all, if you want to start dealing with the anger that you have toward someone else because they wronged you, then the place to start is by actually looking at yourself to consider, what have I done wrong to others? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Take the log out of your own eye so you can see the speck in your brother’s eye.” He was suggesting that before you and I condemn everyone else, we should look at our own lives. I don’t know about you, but I find it far easier to be angry and judgmental of other people if I feel self-righteous. If I know that I’ve done right and I am good and I am perfect and I’m not at fault, then I find it very easy to point the finger at someone else and be angry with them. But, if I get honest with myself and I look at my own life to remember I, too have lost my temper, been critical and not always been faithful. If I look at my own life, I find it easier to be forgiving to others. The place to start is with ourselves.
Secondly, once we have done that, we have prepared ourselves to start to understand the other person, to really try to understand the other person, to put ourselves in their place. Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This means I have to put myself in your place to know what I would want you to do to me if I was in your place. Do I understand you? What does it mean to be in your place? If we all lived by the Golden Rule, it would change the world. If I spent more time trying to understand you, putting myself in your place and then treating you as I would want to be treated, that would change how I act. It would change our world.
Third, and the most difficult is to choose to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice. It’s not an emotional decision, it’s an intellectual decision. It is when you give up the right to get even. When someone has hurt you, when someone has wronged you, when someone has been really unkind and mean, you have a right to get even, that is justice, no one will argue that. Forgiveness is when you give up your right to justice and instead, choose forgiveness.
When you look at your own life and you see the mistakes you’ve made, when you’re able to try to understand others, you reach a point when you can finally give up the right to demand justice and instead, forgive. Please, understand, some of the people that you might forgive may never know it. They may be dead; they may have moved away and left your life. It still lifts that burden out of your life when you choose to forgive. There are other people who have hurt you and you may choose to forgive them but not invite them back into your life. There are people who are still mean and would be hurtful and would use and abuse you; God doesn’t ask you to invite them back into your life to have them hurt you.
I also believe there are others we can forgive and can be reconciled together as a family. We can be reconciled as friends, we can take the chance to apologize, we can take the chance to ask forgiveness, we can offer forgiveness and when we do that, we can be reconciled, and God’s love will be born in our hearts.