In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace – Ephesians 1:7
As a former school principal, I often think back to some of the wonderful opportunities I had to spend time with young people as they discovered new and interesting things about themselves through the experiences given to them by God. The fact that many of these discoveries took place after being invited to my office only helped to better frame the acquired knowledge into their consciousness. But seriously, I did enjoy taking time to sort out issues and find resolutions to problems that had otherwise upset the equilibrium of my school’s learning environment (that’s “big-word-eese for I liked helping solve problems).
Often times, the issues were simple – someone created offense, the offense was reciprocated, and then the problems just grew from there. As part of the reconciliation process, there was almost always the opportunity for apologies and forgiveness to occur, and while some of these scenarios were more successful than others, forgiveness was key to any chance that unity would be restored.
Is forgiveness really that important? I mean, after all, some sins are really big and have long term consequences to both the sinner and the person against whom the sin is being committed. This isn’t always easy, and it can be an incredibly difficult process, but for forgiveness to truly occur, it must be complete and final, without any opportunity or desire to go back. Picture it in this way. Two children are trying to get into a swimming pool filled with cold water. The first child enters by walking in slowly, taking each step one at a time, trying to convince himself to go further. To alleviate this feeling, he steps in and out of the water time and time again. By the time he gets in, if ever, he will have felt the fullest possible measure of discomfort that the water can bring, prolonged over an extended period of time. Once in the pool, the experience of getting in will likely limit his enjoyment and shorten the time he’ll spend in the pool. The second child recognizes that the water will be cold and it will have an impact on him, but makes a decision that he is ready to accept it. In an instant, he jumps in. Even before his toe has hit the surface of the water, he is committed. His decision is made and there is no turning back. Yes, the initial shock may make him uncomfortable, but once he emerges from beneath the water, his body will immediately begin to settle in to his newfound environment. In minutes, he will be comfortable in the water and will go about his way – swimming and playing for as long as he would like without additional struggle. The difference is in the decision.
In his book, “The Five Love Languages,” author Gary Chapman offers a simple, yet powerful insight on the topic of forgiveness. He says, “Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment.” It’s not up to me to feel like I ought to forgive somebody, or to change my mind about forgiveness after I’ve had a little time to reflect upon the situation and the way it has affected me. Forgiveness is a choice that I make – and one with which I must be comfortable as I move forward. To do anything less would indicate a level of insincerity in my actions. We’ve all made mistakes and frankly, some of them are whoppers. We’ve all be wronged and have had exceedingly good reasons to seek recompense or retribution. But to live in perpetual sorrow or anger over past sin is not what God desires for us. Instead, God gives us forgiveness to allow us to move forward from these moments with the confidence that can only come through the grace of a loving God. Author Lewis B. Smedes describes it like this: “Forgiveness is God’s invention for coming to terms with a world in which, despite their best intentions, people are unfair to each other and hurt each other deeply. He began by forgiving us. And He invites us all to forgive each other.”
God demonstrates His great love for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ so that we can have the forgiveness we need and the eternal life in Him that we could never achieve on our own accord. His decision has been made and finalized. Our forgiveness has been granted, received, and shared. And now there’s no turning back as we move ahead in Him.