A friend of mine asked me to write my next column on forgiveness. My first thought was that I have already written several columns on that topic … however, as some wise person once asked, “Can you ever really have too much of a good thing?”
Forgiveness is at the core of Christianity. Well-known secular humanist and novelist, Marghanita Laski (1915–1988) was acutely aware of that.
Not long before she died, she participated in an interview with a Christian host, before a huge television audience. In a moment of honesty and openness, she stated, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me!”
The good news is that we do have someone to forgive us. The Bible, both in the Old and New Testament speaks repeatedly of both the availability and blessedness of forgiveness.
The Old Testament passage of Psalm 32:1,2 states, “What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.”
The New Testament makes it evident that forgiveness is provided by Christ. Ephesians 4:32 says, “… God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.”
But Jesus did not only provide forgiveness, He also taught forgiveness toward others and then additionally exemplified that in His own life. Hanging on the cross, bruised and bleeding, mocked and humiliated, He said, “Father forgive them …” (Luke 23:34).
The granting of forgiveness is one of the most powerful testimonials that a Christian has. Many years ago, an African woman gave her life to Christ and experienced the forgiveness of God. Her husband was the proud chief of a Zulu tribe. When she told him of her new faith in Christ, he beat her mercilessly. As she lay on the floor bleeding, the man mocked her and said, “What can your Jesus do for you now?” The woman picked herself up and tearfully replied, “He can help me to forgive you.”
Forgiveness is simultaneously compelling and difficult. However, to experience God’s forgiveness is to experience freedom. To forgive someone else is to set a prisoner free … often to discover that the prisoner was us!
Forgiveness, as mentioned earlier, is one of the core values of the Christian faith. God’s inclusion of forgiveness in His plan for humanity imparts a fuller life now and promises a joyful, eternal life with Him in heaven.
Without the forgiveness found in Christ, there would be no hope at all, because it would be impossible to stand before God in the next life.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” — C.S. Lewis
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor of Erskine Evangelical Free Church.
— Faith & Reflection