The Challenge of Forgiving Others
Jesus said that we should forgive others. The bad news is that often we don't feel like forgiving. The good news is that our capacity to forgive doesn't depend on how we feel. It depends on a power beyond ourselves.
The Letter to the Colossians says that we are to forbear one another and forgive one another. The two are similar but not quite the same.
Forgiving initially appears to be the more difficult of the two. Perhaps it is because our minds go to worse case scenarios. We think about horrific events we see in the news and contemplate how we would respond if something similar happened to us or our families. Or we think about the worst cruelties and betrayals we have endured. To help think about forgiving, consider these points:
-the Greek word for forgiveness in the Letter to the Colossians also means giving freely. When you forgive, you give freely. You are releasing someone from a debt they owe you.
-the Bible lesson is speaking specifically about forgiving other church members. Learning to live in peace with family and with people in the church is challenging enough, without trying to get along with every stranger.
-certain people are more predisposed to forgiving. Those are people who accept others' expressions of remorse, who understand what causes people to be difficult, who want to sustain relationships, who empathize with other's pain, and who acknowledge their own sinfulness. Look to them if you want to learn how people forgive.
Forbearing means putting up with others. There isn't a specific event that needs to be overcome. There is no intentional sin that needs to be repented. There is no villain and no victim. There is just the recognition that in family and in community, it is hard to get along with each other. People will try our patience. Forbearing is difficult in its own way. There is nothing heroic about it. A more common synonym for "forbearing" would be "enduring". We need to endure each other, if we are to live in community.
Forgiving and forbearing are different, but they are both difficult. That's why it is a challenge. Where do we find the power to forgive and forbear. We find it from beyond ourselves. We find it in Jesus. When you feel challenged to forgive, don't think about how much you re offended or how hard it is to let go of your feelings. Instead, think of Jesus on the cross, paying the price for the sins of humanity, for your sins. Then you will have the power to meet the challenge of forgiving others.