Family in Focus
Forgiveness: Hallmark of the Believer
By Norma Jackson Goldman
Is it hard for you to say these simple words: “Forgive me;
I’m so sorry?”
Can you remember the last time you spoke them, or when someone last said them to you? In an unforgiving culture, Christians, of all people, must practice and model the forgiveness that so characterizes our Savior.
As difficult as it may be, asking for and receiving forgiveness is an essential, regular part of our Christian experience because our old, fleshly nature seems to delight in offending others and in being offended!
For a believer, carrying the knowledge you’ve offended someone becomes a burden, stealing your joy and dampening your zest for life. On the other hand, if you’re the offended one, the event or thoughtless word that created the offense seems to be top of mind, no matter how hard you try to put it aside. The hurt grows, taking on far greater importance than is warranted.
My lovely and talented friend of many years wears a perpetual frown on her face. Likely she is unaware that she looks angry, or at the very least, annoyed in a major way. Unfortunately, she is also easily offended. People new to her acquaintance often ask if something is wrong, not realizing what lies beneath the surface.
You see, many years ago, her husband abandoned her and their young child. Though she had no money and no job, over time, she was able to care for and educate her daughter successfully. She is now married with a child of her own. But throughout all these years, my friend remains unable to forgive the one who so deeply hurt her. Her wounds seem as fresh as if they occurred yesterday.
Although God has provided a comfortable retirement, she lives under the weight of unforgiveness.
In rethinking these events, she often expresses the sentiment that she was treated unfairly. Of course she was! But that was years ago, and while the many good things that have followed will never erase the impact of that offense, she has had multiplied opportunities to forgive and move on. But she chooses to carry that frown.
For a believer, forgiving another’s offense is liberating! It frees the mind and heart to move on; it frees our spirit to join with God’s Spirit, so that we become more like Him.
Forgiveness isn’t easy—it’s counter-cultural. Our world dictates that we stand up for ourselves and assert our rights. But by “rights,” none of us really can approach our righteous Heavenly Father. Isaiah declares, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
This truth from Scripture begs the question: if God has forgiven me from the sins of a lifetime, how can I fail to forgive the offenses of others? No offense you and I have suffered could approach the magnitude of our offenses against God. If Jesus willingly, abundantly provided forgiveness through His sacrificial death, do we really have a right to withhold forgiveness?
Take a moment to reflect: have you offended anyone? If so, prayerfully go at once and express your sorrow for the offense, freeing both parties to move forward in peace and harmony. Has anyone offended you? Rather than carrying that hurtful weight (a pebble easily becomes a boulder), forgive that one (whether he or she asks for forgiveness or not) and refuse to let your joy in the Lord be stolen. This very day, the words “I’m sorry; please forgive me,” can make a liberating difference, both in your life and that of another. Will you say them?
About the Writer: Former magazine editor Norma J. Goldman enjoys a successful writing career in her retirement from her home near Houston, Texas. Learn more about Free Will Baptist retirement options: www.BoardofRetirement.com.