Forgiveness (receiving or giving) is powerful. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger, recognizing that, said that if he could convince his patients that their sins were forgiven, 75 per cent of them could be discharged the following day!
God’s forgiveness is a spiritually powerful gift. However, there are many personal and practical benefits, as well.
Granting forgiveness to others, the kind that God offers, brings joy to our hearts and renews/restores our fellowship with God.
Practising forgiveness sometimes provides valuable insights about ourselves. (The person we feel the need to forgive might be mirroring our own unattractive and oft-denied behavioural traits).
Forgiveness is also a primary path to enjoying the “peace of God, which passes all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)
Finally, forgiveness allows one to move into a hopeful future. Our futures are formed through the thoughts, feelings and realities that we’re experiencing in the present. An unforgiving present guarantees a bleak future.
In “Will Daylight Come,” Richard Hoefler includes a potent anecdote about receiving forgiveness. Young Johnny was visiting his grandparents and they gave him his first slingshot. He went into the woods to learn how to use it, but discovered that he was a terrible shot. Returning to the yard, he noticed his grandparents’ pet duck. Impulsively, he aimed, shot and the duck dropped dead!
He wanted to admit his crime and seek forgiveness, but he panicked and hid the dead duck in the woodpile. Just as he finished the covert operation he saw his sister Sally watching him … she’d seen the whole thing. She said nothing; she simply stood with her hands on her hips and smiled, and then walked away.
After lunch, Grandma asked Sally to help her with the dishes, but Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to do dishes.” And with her hands on her hips, she looked at him and smiled … Johnny did the dishes.
Later, Grandpa asked the children to go fishing. Grandma said, “Sally can’t. I need her to help make supper.” Sally put her hands on her hips, smiled at Johnny and said, “Grandma, Johnny wants to help with supper.”
Johnny helped in the kitchen and Sally went fishing with Grandpa.
Several days went by, with Johnny doing all of Sally’s chores and his, as well. Finally, he couldn’t stand it and he confessed to his grandparents that he’d killed their duck and asked for their forgiveness.
“We know, Johnny,” they said, hugging him. “We were standing at the window and saw the whole thing. We forgave you immediately, but we wondered how long you would continue being a slave by not receiving our forgiveness.”
“Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor of Erskine Evangelical Free Church.
— Faith & Reflection