Who is forgiveness really for? Is it for the sinner or the wounded? I have been contemplating this a lot lately as I deal with my personal grief over losing a parent. Also, the feelings of resentment and other feelings that are kept bottled up inside Is the act of forgiving someone else simply a means of calming our own internal irritation, or is it also an act of love for both the forgiver and the person being forgiven?
But if we don’t, as they say, repent or ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt, then what can we expect from those who have hurt us?
Jesus’ death was the ultimate act of forgiveness and love for his creation. Was this act of death for our benefit or God’s? Or Both?
I’ve met a lot of people during my first year of seminary, some of whom are steadfast in their theology or beliefs. But this faith or theology is frequently questioned when something we don’t expect to happen takes place. We pray and we ask questions; we seek comfort in the scriptures, our family, or our church. It is human nature to attempt to rationalize phenomena that defy explanation. Theologians and pastors sometimes shrug their shoulders and say, “It is all part of God’s plan!”
However, that can lead to someone shelving the issue, which, in the long run, can often turn someone into something they never were. It can turn someone into an addict, an overeater, angry, or bitter, and even though I have discovered myself trying to understand the doctrine of providence, sometimes we just have to accept God’s will and let go.
That kind of support is typically not very helpful for someone who is going through a particularly difficult period in their life. How exactly do we as pastors, deacons, elders, friends, or family members pull people back from the brink of their own destruction? When people have wandered away from the love that Christ offers, how can we bring them back? And how are we supposed to explain or justify the will of God? Is it through forgiveness?
What about forgiving God?
Or are we not at liberty to question God because of the authority he possesses?
Ephesians 4:32 says, Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Nevertheless, during the most recent Synod, there were some who had the impression that forgiveness was something we simply swept under the table. The consideration and compassion shown toward other people were merely postponed until another time. Others were simply put off by it all, and there next response was, “Where can I find a more affirming Church?”
Is that really the answer to our disagreements? Is that the reformed way now? As I have learned the hard way, when we stop being empathetic toward one another, our hearts often turn to anger, making it more difficult to forgive and more justifiable to engage in conflict.
There are always two sides to every story, and there are many different interpretations of scripture, just as in modern times there are many interpretations of sexuality and love.
Scriptures, as some of us know, are stated very clearly in Leviticus 18 and 20, as well as Romans 1:18–32, and we know from Genesis that God created men and women to complement each other, and so forth, to fit together to create more humans. No two men or two women in a sexual relationship can create another human being, a gift God has given to us as creators to be able to create.
However, are these scriptures talking about the acts of homosexuality in the same manner as a married couple in a loving, stable, strong relationship in the same ways as they are talking about the acts of unchastened porn or adultery?
In Leviticus, we are going back to discussing the eras of Solomon and Gohmora, when God destroyed the heathens, corruption, and sins that existed on earth.
In this act of forgiveness by God himself, he spared Noah and his family, had hope for men and women to continue, and even promised to never forsake us again this way. An ultimate act of forgiveness and love! He sent his only son, a part of himself, a living, walking man, into this sinful world to show us his true sovereign love for us, even when we don’t deserve it. And on the cross, as an innocent man hung beaten and dying, his last words were, “Frogive, Father them; they know not what they’ve done.” If God can forgive us for that terrible act that resulted in the death of an innocent person, his begotten son no less, then why can’t we forgive those who are in our immediate vicinity? At the very least, could we talk to each other with compassion and kindness? If we fail to do this, we become no better than the Pharisees and hypocrites Jesus condemns in Matthew 23. Do we really want to be known as a church full of hypocrites? Or the church of love and forgiveness, this does not mean that we are required to conform to the standards of this world or disobey the laws that define the will of God for our lives. However, we must shine as Christ’s ambassadors in all our interactions, most especially with one another. If we can not do that, we are not the Church, which is Christ’s Body on earth.