13th October 2012

The Challenge Of Forgiveness

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.”
Colossians 3:13 (TNIV)

Discussing the plight of a specific country with huge debts, I speculated whether the long term answer might be to forgive the debt. “No, that wouldn’t work,” came the thoughtful reply, “what would stop them running up huge debts again in the future?”  Good point! I am glad that I don’t have to make such decisions. I do pray that the world leaders will have the collective wisdom to solve such knotty economic problems.

This conversation got me thinking about matters closer to home – on how I forgive others. When I am offended, it is so much easier to forgive when I feel that the perpetrator is unlikely to cause me pain again. A display of remorse and sorrow makes all the difference.  But what if there is no remorse? What if they appear indifferent to my pain?

The Apostle Paul’s encouragement to us is to follow the walk of Jesus. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). Jesus forgave me when I was still indifferent about him. Indeed, as a teenager I mocked the idea of the “Saviour on a Cross”.  I used to think that God forgave me at the point when I realised that I had it all wrong. However, that’s not right: God’s forgiveness preceded my change of heart – in Jesus I was already forgiven right back at the time I was mocking him.

Paul doesn’t tell us that this will be easy. To forgive an offence is difficult and painful. Yet, it will make a difference for the long term, because we open a door for God himself to handle the messy, painful and destructive problems that afflict our lives. Through us, the light of our Lord shines through into a previously dark place.

As Paul reminds us. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight” (Colossians 1:21-22). Forgiveness does truly change the world – as we have seen through our Lord’s act of mercy for us.

Father, how wonderful it is that you are a God of forgiveness, mercy and grace! We do not find forgiving others easy, so please guide our hearts to trust in your Son, through whom we are all forgiven. We desire that your abundant grace flows through our lives, bringing peace and harmony to places of discord and hatred.

Study by Ian Woodley

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