Friday, March 26, 2010

Why must I forgive?

We are told to forgive many times in the Bible. It's a basic Christian teaching; so basic that I'd expect it to be impossible to be Christian without knowing that to be so requires us to forgive others a countless number of times.

That strikes many people as strange. Not only because they misunderstand what “forgive' means (it does not mean “pretend it never happened”... more on that another time) but also because they consider some offenses unforgivable. Why are we supposed to forgive everyone no matter what? Why does Christianity make such a difficult, even impossible without Christ's grace, demand on us?

There are many reasons, such as unforgiveness hurts us more than the person we don't forgive, and today we're going to focus on another reason; that sin isn't only only about us.

All sin offends God, some sin offends us. We know God can forgive all sins only because they all offend him (how could he forgive a sin that didn't offend him?) and this is great news when I'm the one sinning! We know that with repentance come forgiveness.

However this is a huge challenge when I'm the one offended.

This is yet another place where the rubber hits the road for my Christian faith. I'm called to imitate Christ as closely as possible and to follow his commands, not only because he commanded them but also because he lived them and set an example for us. It's so tempting to gleefully accept forgiveness for my sins and then cry out for vengeance upon those who offend me. Like Jonah I proclaim the greatness of God and his forgiveness and then sit back and wait for God to smite the people who hurt me. All of a sudden God's infinite mercy seems so incredibly unfair!

If Christ forgave his executioners, how will I explain my unforgiveness of Aunt Ruth for her snoopiness? I think that'd be a tough sell.

Christians are called to be like Christ in all ways and some of them are very tough. Forgiving others who offend us is one of those things. Not only is it flagrantly hypocritical to accept forgiveness and deny it to others, but refusing forgiveness simply isn't something Christ would do so neither can we.

It really is that simple.

No comments: