Shane Moad is an Affiliate Member of
Rockingham Monthly Meeting, Ohio Yearly Meeting. He attends
Beverley Friends Meeting in Western Australia. This essay
appeared in the November 2005 issue of The Conservative Friend
Back to OYM Publications Page
So many times in my life since becoming a Christian I have been put in
the position of forgiving others or being forgiven by others. Neither
of these two parts of forgiveness is easy to do and for a long time I
was at a loss to understand why. When Jesus forgave people He just
seemed to accept the fact that what had happened was now over and a new
beginning to the relationship had started. Then He got on with the
things around Him. When I forgave people I tried to get on with things
around me but in my mind what they had done to offend me would often
crop up in my thoughts. And as I went over and over on the "great
wrongs" they had caused me my love for them started to cool and then my
anger towards them grew, and here I was again back to square one! What
was I doing wrong? Then one day not to long ago our Creator finally got
through to me: my PRIDE was getting in the way.
When I forgave someone, I was expecting satisfaction or pampering of my
ego. Forgiveness was about how good I could feel and how nice the other
person may think I am. So in the end it was about SELF and PRIDE, two
traits that donít work well with true forgiveness. I also thought that
when you forgave someone they would not do that same thing again.
Wrong: people often fall into the same sin again.
When we think about these ideas, we see what a truly forgiving God we
have. He tells us He throws our sins as far as the East is from the
West and we start a clean slate. He is not limited by PRIDE and SELF.
He puts the one He is forgiving first, knowing that the sin He has
forgiven could happen again. We see therefore that forgiveness is an
ongoing process. With His forgiving He has become completely giving,
not expecting any form of praise for Himself but just offering His
whole self to the needs of His people. Now thatís forgiveness!
We as Friends need to understand that Jesusí forgiveness is freely
given, and that we need to forgive just as freely as Christ does. We
should expect nothing in return. If we are waiting for something in
return, we are forgiving for all the wrong reasons.
When Jesus forgave someone He also said, "Sin no more". (e.g., John
8:11) It is important for us all to remember that there is an
obligation on our part before the Lord that we should not sin again.
When Jesus healed the man at the pool in Bethesda he said, "See, you
have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you."
(John 5:14) We should never think that we have the freedom to keep on
committing the same sin over and over again just because we know the
Lord will forgive us. His forgiveness is given to a repentant
heart, one that is trying not to fall into that same sin again.
Although some people feel reconciliation comes before forgiveness, I
have found that reconciliation can only happen when the forgiving
process has been put into action. If we cannot forgive the person, then
it will be all but impossible to be reconciled with them. After the
forgiving has started, then reconciliation should follow. If the other
party is not open to reconciliation at that time, the only thing we can
do is to forgive the person the things we feel they have done to us and
pray that in the future an opportunity for reconciliation will present
itself .We have the Lord as our example. In addition He has also given
us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will mould our spirits to have a
more forgiving nature.
The process of forgiveness is well laid out in the parable of the
unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:18-35). That story shows just how
important forgiveness is to a Christianís walk with the Lord, as well
as the problems and consequences of an unforgiving heart. It is very
easy to talk about forgiveness but a lot harder to do, if we do not
strive to walk in the nature of Christ. My prayer is that we can
all learn to have the forgiving spirit that Christ has.