Monday, October 15, 2012

Forgive and Forget?

We are extremely lucky to be so loved that God paid the price of our own sins with his own blood. Our forgiveness was not free, it came with a very high price which we were not required to pay.

As a pastor I often hear two versions of the Christian idea of forgiveness from people. The first, I think, stems from the belief that since God suffered and died on a cross in order for our sins to be forgiven, we also must either suffer for our own sins or make the person who sinned against us suffer: The idea that when a sin is committed, restitution must be made in order for forgiveness to be given. The second idea I often hear regarding forgiveness is that when we are sinned against (or when we sin against another), the injured party should simply forget the incident and move on as if it didn't happen (the 'ol' forgive and forget' idea).

I don't particularly like either of these ideas regarding forgiveness. I believe the first makes us out to be perfect, as God is perfect, which is patently untrue. Every single one of us is a sinner and makes mistakes all the time. God's perfection is what required restitution, our imperfection does not. The second idea allows people to excuse behaviors that really cannot and should not be excused and sets up future repetition of those 'excused' behaviors.

For me the Christian idea of forgiveness has more to do with acknowledging the pain and hurt of an experience, letting go of the bitterness those experiences can bring, and moving forward in your life not tied to a particular injury or set of injurious experiences. Forgiveness for us, as human sinners who have already received mercy from our gracious God, is more about the individual.

Hanging on to our injuries only makes us bitter which is not good for us or anyone around us.

Imagine forgiveness as laying the sin/hurt/injury on the ground and stepping over it. You have not forgotten it, excused it, or required restitution for it. You have acknowledged it and made the choice to step over it and move on. You have chosen to lay it down, not bury it or drag it with you, and move forward into your future. By laying down a sin that was done against you and stepping over it, you choose to let it inform your future but not control it.

I don't know about you, but that is the kind of forgiveness that I want to work at in  my life.

Chesney Szaniszlo