How do we forgive injustice?
How do we forgive those who hurt us?
How do we forgive betrayal?
I have a few stories in my family history of injustice, wounding, and betrayal. I expect you do too. For many of us, these are memories of deep pain, often traumatizing, and even family-destroying.
I thought a lot about whether telling you the details of my family’s stories would increase the impact of what I want to write about forgiveness. But the truth is, they aren’t my personal stories to tell and what makes them profound stories in my heart has less to do with the details and more to do with what happened after.
When I’ve talked with the individuals who lived these stories, every devastating minute, they have always told me that they came to a moment in which they knew they had to make a choice for themselves, their children, and their future. By the standards of this world, they had every right to wear garments of bitterness for the rest of their lives.
But when the world would have demanded retribution, my family chose forgiveness.
When the world would have expected self-preservation, my family chose love.
And I am forever grateful they made those choices. Because when I think about these times in my family’s past, I can hardly believe they didn’t defeat us. I marvel that we came through them and can still laugh and love and hope.
Their choices taught me that anything is possible.
Are you thinking about your own stories and wondering whether forgiveness is possible?
Henri Nouwen writes:
To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.
We can forgive injustice, wounding, and betrayal because of who we are in Christ—chosen, holy, and loved.
When we truly believe and accept this identity and receive our new garments of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience—anything becomes possible.
Does this seem too simple of an answer? I know that in reality forgiveness rarely feels as easy as just putting on some new clothes. A few weeks ago, Dan taught that being fully alive requires a choice to live in the identity that Christ has given us. It’s a continual choice I have to make day-by-day, even minute-by-minute. It often requires me turning to our community for prayer when I begin to lose sight of who I truly am in Christ.
I want to encourage you today that if you are tired of believing you are a broken soul defined by your wounds and the injustices done to you, there are people at Calvary who will pray with you and help you confidently claim who you truly are in Christ.
Forgiveness, love, freedom—it’s all possible.
Reflection on Colossians 3:13-14