This Sunday I will continue the series in both Sanctuary services entitled “Five Essentials for Living Well.” In this series we are looking together at five aspects of living well, or in Jesus’ words: “abundant life.” This Sunday we will hear three passages of scripture that speak to the same reality:
Matthew 6:14 — “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Luke 17:3 — “Watch yourselves! If your brother or sister sins, warn them to stop. If they change their hearts and lives, forgive them.”
Colossians 3:13 — “Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.”
One of the essentials of living well is forgiveness. It is a theme that appears over and over again in Jesus’ teachings and in scripture in general. Martin Luther noted, “The continual forgiveness of the neighbor [is] the primary and foremost duty of Christians, second only to faith and the reception of forgiveness.”
Forgiveness is not easy and it is often misunderstood. In conversations with people throughout the years, and as I look into my own heart and mind in relation to forgiveness, I think many of us are afraid that forgiving an offense is the same as saying that the affront or the harm didn’t matter or was unimportant — but it isn’t. In spite of the old saying, “Forgive and forget,” I’ve come to realize that forgiveness is NOT forgetting. It is NOT accepting or justifying or condoning what happened. It is NOT even reconciling — although that may happen . Forgiveness does NOT require having to understand the offender or the offense. Forgiveness does NOT mean that we no longer feel the pain of the offense. We often do. And, certainly, forgiveness does NOT mean submitting yourself to abuse of any kind — that is NOT forgiveness.
So, what is it? The definition that has come to mean a great deal to me since I first read it in a study by the Fetzer Institute is this: Forgiveness is the difficult and intentional process of letting go of an old reality and opening up the possibility of a new one. The longer I live, the more convinced I am that this difficult and intentional process is essential for living well.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we think together about this important part of living and what it means for each of us.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster,