What’s the hardest thing you have ever had to do? My guess is that the answers could include things like caring for a sick loved ones, burying someone precious to you, or keeping the farm through the worst of droughts. These are hard things that you do because of love or because you care, and that makes the hard things good things. But what if the hardest things you ever had to do were things you have no love or energy for?
Forgiveness can be like that and there is a lot in this world for which we can think hatred is an easier option – hatred of others and sometimes even hatred of self.
One only needs to think of the abuser, the domestically violence offender, the marriage cheat, a stolen inheritance, bullying parents or drunken carnage to realise how great the challenges of forgiveness can be. Interestingly, it can take a lot less than these to build resentments, bitterness and hatreds. A child can despise his parents for promises broken, a spouse can grow cold under words cruelly dispatched, a friendship can be ruined by covetousness, and from gossip – be it verbal, texted, tweeted or Facebooked - plans for vengeance can fester.
I offer here the offenses of others that make us less than forgiving, but what of the things that we sense make us unforgiveable? You can adventure in the darkness of evil but such adventures prove terrifying without light. You can live permissively but that does not mean you escape a God given conscience that haunts you. You can be driven by adrenalin to behaviour that finds you at the bottom of a very deep hole with no way out. You can experiment with things that make shame an unhelpful travelling companion. You can pursue choices that scar you for life for which there seems no atonement for guilt.
Our world offers us sufficient evidence that sin destroys community and resentments, bitterness and hatred keep it destroyed. It is not rocket science to know that living in the dark and being lost, haunted, ashamed and guilty are not pathways to a revival of life or community. Thus the need to reintroduce the real Jesus Christ into our lives and communities.
If you are looking for Jesus Christ to top up your bank account, to ensure you get the best jobs, to find your perfect match and to give you a problem free existence you will be sadly disappointed. However, if you are looking for Jesus Christ to relieve the burden of your own sin and foolishness, to set you on a better path to make wiser choices, to offer you the strength to forgive others and the healing of community, then you have come to the right person.
What is the hardest thing God has ever had to do? He created us and we ignored Him. He handed us his wisdom and we rejected it. He revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ and we scoffed at Him. He sent His only Son to save us and we crucified Him. He offered us His kindness and we ridiculed Him. He promised us life to the full and we chose to empty life in our sins, struggling to receive or offer forgiveness, finding our resentments, bitterness and hatreds more valuable than love.
Now there’s a recipe for the production of hate if ever I heard one but to God it is a pointer to human need for which the hardest thing God ever had to do was establish our forgiveness. Forgiveness required of God that: He cross lines of hostility, redirect His anger, satisfy His justice through His only Son who atoned for us all, and suffer in the offer a forgiveness we did not deserve. That forgiveness understood and received has been the catalyst for people all over the world being brought together and held together in community. The striking thing about God’s forgiveness is that nothing is unforgiveable other than the rejection of God’s offer of forgiveness.