Here’s a Thought for Sept. 29

Our need of forgiveness

As a clinical medical chaplain, I have come to believe that listening and the free, two-way exchange of forgiveness are two most important factors in healthy relationships. Constant forgiving and re-forgiving are non-negotiable parts of good relationships in accordance with sacred Scripture as it gives constant emphasis on forgiveness.

“But I have already worked through forgiving ______ ….” I have heard many of my former patients and their family members say. Sadly, the depth of self-deception many people of faith have in regarding their need to forgive and to receive forgiveness from God and their neighbors. Many of them are suffering from angry, perfectionistic, controlling, passive-aggressive, and many other unhealthy emotions — all of these are often symptoms of unresolved hurts

If negativity is part of your life in any ongoing way, something isn’t right! We are much like Peter in our Gospel text, “how many times do I have to forgive my brother?” Jesus answered him by telling him that forgiveness may indeed involve a process before we are truly able to forgive from the heart.

Saying “I forgive” is like taking an emotional shower-forgiveness cleanses and frees the entrapped soul. Many times we have to take an initial step of forgiveness to start the forgiveness process. Sometimes we must repeat the act of forgiving each time a new set of painful memories comes to the surface.

I remember a female chaplain in my chaplaincy residence training, who had divorced her alcoholic abusive husband, who almost killed her, said to us, “I know why Jesus said to forgive 70 times 7. I think I’ve forgiven my former husband 370 times by now. I just may need another 120 times of forgiveness before I get to the bottom of the forgiveness well!”

Some more spiritual thoughts on forgiveness.

1. Forgiveness is rooted in God’s forgiveness for us. Most Bible passages about forgiveness make this abundantly clear, including Jesus’ compelling parable about forgiveness in Matthew 18:23-35.

2. Forgiveness is never given on the basis of the other person(s) deserving it. Forgiveness is not based on finding some redeeming quality that makes a person worth forgiving. We can never base genuine forgiveness upon an individual’s meriting or earning our forgiveness. Forgiveness is something that happens on the inside of you — it comes solely from your desire to forgive for the sake of forgiving. Forgiveness is simply handing the other person over to God, releasing them and your right to seek revenge.

3. Forgiveness does not mean continuing to put oneself in harm’s way.

4. Forgiveness does not guarantee reconciliation with the other person. It may open the door for it, but it is a one-sided act on your part that releases you from bitterness and the other person into God’s care.

5. As Christ Jesus said 70 times 7. In other words, God pleasing forgiveness of sins is a lifelong process.

Remembering that where there is “the forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation.” Let’s listen to the Apostle Paul: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)