By: Robert D Brinsmead
Forgiveness implies freeing a person from a debt, or at least that was its original Biblical meaning, which happens to be just as true today. Somewhere I read in just the past week that forgiveness is not just an act of freeing the person who has wronged us, it is also the act of freeing ourselves. Mandela pointed out that nourishing that hating of your enemy is like thinking you can harm him if you eat some poison. Carrying an unforgiven debt around hurts us. So let us be clear that we forgive for our own sakes too. It is an interesting text from an OT prophet that has God saying that God blots out our sins, casts them into the depths of the sea, forgets them, puts them behind God’s back, keeps no score of wrongs…. (wait for it)…. “for My own sake” As if to say, God does not want to carry around the resentment against us like an old running sore either! What should surprise us about that? If we are made in God’s image and likeness then it should be a matter of like Father like daughter.
Then there is an even deeper reason why we should practice unconditional love and forgiveness – it is due to our mysterious inter-connectedness. Genetically, of course, we are all one species with the same DNA structure going back to a single mother, making us all one interconnected family. But I suggest that it is even deeper than that. One insight that some of the Near Death Experience people have gained (and we don’t need to argue at this point from where NDE originate even if in the deep recesses of the brain/mind when every other voice is silenced), but one point that many NDers return with is a deep awareness or realization hit them of this inter-connectedness with every other person, almost as if the other person, even if my enemy and whatever his offense, is me – we are all the one great spark or web of life from the same infinite Source. This means that I should love my neighbour as myself – this is almost saying my neighbour is myself. Then I better care for that life and treat it as my own life. Therefore a failure to forgive a neighbour is a failure to forgive ourselves. To put this another way, the neighbour is a member of same human “body” of humanity as we are. You cannot injure, neglect, hurt, hate a part of your own body without doing it to yourself. There is more to the saying of John Wesley about the drunk in the gutter than tend to realize” “There go I but for the grace of God.”
Four examples of Jesus appearing to forgive unconditionally – that is, he did not set prior conditions but forgave even before offenders asked forgiveness:
Eating with sinners which was contrary to the Law. In that culture this was an act of forgiveness, treating the unclean as clean, acceptance and fellowship together before God.
Inviting himself to dine with Zacchaeus before this sinner got around to announcing he was going to change his ways.
Telling the sick and palsied man his sins were forgiven before he had even asked for the boon.
His prayer from the cross asking God to forgiven his murderers.