Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Additional Thoughts on Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a DECISION, not an EMOTION

This is critical for us to understand, because we are not always going to feel like forgiving someone who has caused us pain. 

In the final verse of today’s gospel reading, Jesus instructs his disciples to forgive “from the heart.” Now when we hear this phrase "from the heart,” most of us think of an action or a response that primarily involves our emotion. When we do something “from the heart,” it is typically something we sincerely feel deep within us.

However, in the ancient world, the heart was not only considered the seat of the emotions; it was also understood to be the seat of the will. Therefore, to do something "from the heart" implied a concious act of the will; it implied making a decision. This means that sometimes we choose to forgive in spite of how we feel. In making this decision, we open ourselves more fully to God's grace, which is the means by which we are able to forgive and love even those who have deeply hurt us. 

Many times, choosing to forgive is a daily choice, a daily decision to walk with an attitude of forgiveness, a daily decision to release our anger, our resentment, our judgment and leave those things at the foot of the cross, so we can be free.  This is a daily decision to believe that in light of the generous, extravagant, and abundant forgiveness that God has extended to us, how can we do any less. 

The transformation of our emotional response to the person who has wronged us is usually a much longer process, which is only possible after we have made the decision that we are willing to forgive. 

Forgiveness is a JOURNEY, not a DESTINATION

Forgiving another person is not simply a one-time event that is completed in a single moment, but it is a process, a journey.

Greek word for “forgiveness” literally means to “let go, to send away, to put aside.”

But how many times do we come to a place of forgiveness, a juncture in our lives when we are willing to let go, to send away, to put aside our anger, resentment, and judgment toward another person, only to discover that the same anger, resentment, and judgment often comes creeping back into our lives, into our souls, and into our hearts. In other words, even when we have made the decision to forgive, we often find it difficult to "let go" of our emotional response toward the person who has wronged us. 

In these moments when old feelings of anger and resentment come creeping back into our hearts, it is imperative that we remember that forgiveness is a journey; it is a process of healing and transformation that may take a lifetime to complete. Our hope is found in the promise that our willingness to forgives opens our hearts to receive God's grace and power, for it is only by God's grace and power are we able to walk the path of forgiveness. 

In the blog posts below, I have included some videos and quotes on forgiveness. The videos provide two testimonies about the power of forgiveness to transform our lives. One video is from the perspective of a person who needed to forgive, while the other video is from the perspective of a person who needed to be forgiven

Forgiveness, given and received, is likely the most powerful force for change in our world. 

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