What is the first think you think of when the word forgiveness is mentioned?
What emotions come to the surface? What incidents from your life quickly come to mind? The times when you needed to be forgiven? The times when you needed to forgive someone who wronged you?
Forgiveness is an act that we are often called upon to experience simply because we are so very human. We are so imperfect, so prone to make mistakes, so in need of correcting our thoughtless and sometimes purposeful acts that hurt others deeply. Research in the area of forgiveness points out the need for forgiveness simply in terms of our own health – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The holding tight of hate, grudges, and the desire for revenge all hurt us much more than the person we despise. And furthermore, lack of forgiveness leads to a spiraling upward of acts of revenge that only leads to more hurt and hate, and not to a return of loving relationships that we desperately need in our lives. The difficulty of the ongoing efforts to bring peace in many parts of our world all point out the long term effects of lack of forgiveness.
All religions point out the need for forgiveness. But the followers of Jesus Christ have a unique and wonderful model of forgiveness. As we begin the season of Lent, we are again reminded of how Jesus, while suffering on a cross undeservedly, asked his Father to forgive those who put him through such suffering. And we are reminded that through his sacrificial death on the cross Jesus provided for our forgiveness and a way to a new life that offers forgiveness to others. We are freed from self-centered desires for revenge and retribution and can focus on attitudes and actions that deal graciously with our own wrongdoing and wrongdoing that others do to us.