A month ago I thought a series of articles on forgiveness would offer encouragement and hope. It was my prayer that this set of articles would make a difference in people's lives. Little did I know how personally close the issue of forgiveness would become. Please don't misunderstand me. I am a man like any man, and in fact like every woman. That may sound strange but forgiveness is not a gender issue, it is a life issue. I have always needed forgiveness and I live in a world surrounded by people who need me to be forgiving. The difficulty is that accepting forgiveness or offering forgiveness can be a real challenge.
Such a challenge came with a morning ‘phone call telling me my friend had been arrested the day before. That was the first moment in shocking pieces of information to cross my desk. I was informed that 40 years ago my friend began hiding what he had done. I was reminded of those oft quoted words, "be sure your sins will find you out". I don't know why people think they can hide their sins. If people don't catch you out, the guilt will trap you in. A family member said that he had been living with guilt all those years. I loved my friend and so much of his life was good but past mistakes carried a life time of regret. It is this that makes forgiveness so precious.
I know of few heavier loads than guilt. My guess is that the 40 years made the guilt heavier. The years certainly heightened the shame. Every one of his successful years of life made his downfall worse leaving no doubt that a sin quickly dealt with is better than a long hidden secret finally exposed. An early confession may have been painful but the outcome may have been better than a long hidden guilt and escalating shame that ended with the second most shocking piece of information - my friend had taken his own life.
It will take me some time to come to terms with my friend's past and his suicide. Amidst grief, I have been left bewildered, disoriented and suffering all the emotions described in the seminars on suicide I have attended.
I know God has answers to all things but that does not mean He lets us know what the answers are to all things.
So, I must live by faith in God amidst my confusions and the imponderables this life throws at us. My friend let a lot of people down and misrepresented himself and we could resent that forever but forgiveness is better. Better for those guilty of sinning against us and better for those hurt by such sin. I note that forgiveness has nothing to do with deservedness. Forgiveness comes as an undeserved grace. It says volumes about the forgiver while for the forgiven they find healing. I have discovered that the most forgiving, merciful and gracious people in life are usually those who have been forgiven themselves.
Forgiveness, while a challenge, is one of the greatest gifts a person can give or receive. It is costly to give because we must turn aside our anger. We have to lose a little or even a lot of ourselves to offer forgiveness. It is a humble and generous gift in an age where selfish pride so often resists. But if we can let go of our hurts sufficiently to forgive we might just save a few lives. Indeed, that is what God does. He turns away His anger from us and to offer forgiveness, Jesus Christ loses His life in order to give us life.
Forgiveness is not easy to give but equally forgiveness can be hard to accept. It requires a humility that allows oneself to be loved. You can’t give anything for it, it can’t be purchased or repaid. The only thing the forgiven can do is be thankful. And to be loved and thankful is a great start for a better life beyond the sins we try to hide. Oh that I had had the opportunity to talk with my friend about forgiveness. Perhaps to talk about forgiveness in this article may prove a life saver for others.
Armidale Anglican Diocese