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THE ART OF FORGIVENESS
Would it be safe to say that we have the opportunity to practice forgiving someone for a minor or major offense at least once a month? Everyone can profit from a brief review of the word forgive.
The Greek word for forgive is “aphiemi”. The word has two parts: “apo” is a preposition that indicates movement or separation away from something. “Hiemi” means to send, to remit, or to cancel. Together they mean to send something away; to remit something; or to cancel something.
In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to forgive (to cancel or remit) our debts, sins, or trespasses. We ask God to send our sins, debts or trespasses away and cancel our wrongdoings as if we had not done them. We want our sins to be wiped from the slate never to be brought against us again.
How often do we hesitate to pray the rest of the prayer…as we forgive those who sin against us? Jesus warns us that human forgiveness is to be strictly analogous to Divine forgiveness: “If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”(Mat 6:1:15)
Here are some excellent quotes that help us consider forgiveness from many perspectives. “There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love” (Bryant H. McGill). “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” (Mahatma Gandhi). “When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.” (Alan Paton). “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” (Paul Boese). “God pardons like a mother, who kisses the offense into everlasting forgiveness.” (Henry Ward Beecher).
If we consider ourselves to be mature adults who are capable of living a successful life…how did we get to that level of development? Did we live a secluded life cloistered away from any hardships or temptations? Were we exempt from society where we didn’t face the hard reality that life is not a rose garden without thorns? Not at all. Successful people may or may not have had advantages that shielded them from poverty or illness or other adversities. Many conquered hardships and fought for every goal they reached.
We have the promise of an eternity in heaven without problems but we should not expect heaven on earth. Gold is not refined while it remains hidden inside a hard rock. It must be crushed and placed in the fire.
God does not isolate his children from the real world. He does not save us from the world…but he definitely saves us while we live in the world.
It is unrealistic to think we will have the absence of offenses in life. Trying hard not to offend anyone, we will likely do or say something that will be offensive. Forgiveness is hardest when someone we love most dearly has offended us. An old song says it well: “You always hurt the one you love. The one you shouldn’t hurt at all.”
We have been promised that we will have trouble. We can begin each day anticipating problems and ask Jesus to equip us for whatever difficulties we will encounter. The living presence of Jesus is our only guarantee of success. His hand will never let go of our hand. Walking with Jesus assures us that each challenge is a potential victory.
When a trusted loved one hurts us, we often want to hold their feet to the fire as long as possible to punish them. Lewis B. Smedes shares wisdom: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
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