I definitely am not one that can sit here at my computer and claim to know a lot about forgiveness, for ideally that should come from a man much stronger and wiser than I. Yet even I, in all of my ignorance and stubbornness, understand how difficult it is to withstand the pain, embarrassment, and strife that can come from the hands of our fellow human beings, especially the ones who stick around long enough to gain our trust. I, too, experience the temptation to judge and condemn those who use their existence as an opportunity to cause destruction and disconnect in a world that was meant for creation and community. It would be easy to just refuse forgiveness all together. It’s not like they deserve it. If I were completely honest with myself often times this is exactly how I feel. I imagine those who have hurt me coming back, pleading and begging for my forgiveness and I turn and walk away the same way they walked away from me, because that’s what I think they deserve.
Or instead, I could just agree to the bare minimum, (e.g. “I’ll forgive but not forget.”) or agree to forgive but only with a spirit of contempt only because it’s what I’m supposed to do. It’s always going to fall back to what I think the person deserves. It’s the law of “ just consequences.” You walked away, you spit in my face, or you treated me like crap, there should definitely be some consequences and maybe it’s my job to make sure you feel them.
And yet what’s the ultimate consequence for MY actions. Is causing MORE destruction and MORE disconnect really the impact I want to make? If Jesus’ purpose was not to condemn the world, then what business is it of mine?
Forgiveness is difficult because just like any other aspect of love it’s never indifferent; to forgive and walk away is to not forgive at all. To forgive someone is to love someone, and to love someone is to continue a connection, to build a friendship, to construct a living community. Forgiveness can be as simple as a hug or as complex as an ongoing uncomfortable conversation. It’s an open heart and mind, a willingness to continue and the courage to begin again and it’s all of this with no regard for the ugliness that may come against us. The real beauty of forgiveness lies in the risk, in the understanding that we may face a closed and cold heart time and time again. And yet true forgiveness is ones ability to never close your heart to anyone for any reason. It’s found in our ability to keep our hearts warm and open no matter how many times we come up against cold hearted or closed-minded individuals. With every action we either create or destroy and forgiveness is the art of restoring what we’ve once destroyed. Re-creation and Reconciliation, Forgiveness and love, it’s all the same. It’s the result of a constant and consistent open heart.