The purpose of forgiveness, part 2

 If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13


What is the purpose of forgiveness?  The purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation, restored relationship.  The purpose of forgiveness is also community, authentic, deep, genuine community.  Community is sharing life together renewed and reconciled.  

We can not have community without forgiveness, true forgiveness that involves reconciliation.  And the way into and the way onto community is Christ.  And the means by which we achieve forgiveness is my living in a through his love.  How is this possible?  Through the discipleship of Christ.  Learning the way.

The only way to live the Christian life is living through Jesus' agape love for one another.  Unforgiveness has no place in the Christian's life.  A Christian is someone who has asked forgiver: forgiven and forgiving.  To not be forgiven or forgiving means you are not a Christian.   

We can and do hate sin, wicked deeds, and all evil.  But we never hate our brother or sister, but forgive them.  In Christ we can see all people as worthy of forgiveness, in Christ and through ourselves.

The love of Christ, the agape love spoken about in 1 Corinthians 13 is where we are equals, where forgiveness is not individual and private but mutual and shared in Christian community.  We must love sacrificially if we are truly Christians and work out forgiveness together.

In the love of Christ I can forgive you.  I forgive you because of him in me.  He gives me the love, the ability to forgive you

If we meet together we will have conflicts, disagreements, offenses, and hurt feelings.  Agape, sacrificial love and forgiveness are the only way into genuine community.  The alternative is superficiality, buffering and distancing, denial, judgementalism, grudges, bitterness, smiling while you are dying inside, cutting off or moving away.  None of these are reconciliation or true forgiveness in Christ's love.

Living through love is the normal Christian life.  This is not an act or how we should act, but this is who we are...  in Christ.

Christians tend to shun, distance, cut off, and run from relationships with brothers and sisters far too easily.  

A block to forgiveness is blame.  We say, "It was there fault".  When we blame or assign fault, we may be correct, but where does it get us?  Usually we blame then justify our unforgiveness on that basis.  

Sometimes we do forgiveness that has no reconciliation.  I have contempt, despise, distance; but I say I have forgiven.  

The blame game is a self-righteous attitude that will not result in reconciliation.  When I blame our conflict on you and take no responsibility for it and claim to forgive you or worse yet, only receive your forgiveness, but offer none of my own towards you, it that real, genuine forgiveness?  Have we reconciled?  Do we have community?  Is the relationship restored?  No.

What is Christ's community?  It is a place where we love one another.  And true love is sacrifice, laying down my life for my friends.  That is Jesus' life in me.  

Jesus called Judas friend.  Jesus forgave the men who crucified him.  Can I let him live that way through me?

When we choose to forgive, and forgiveness is a choice that we are commanded to make, we see the other person as loveable, an object of love and a person God loves who I should love too, because I am God's and have God in me.  I have no right to hold a grudge or pass judgement on people, even people who have hurt me.

Learning to love is a life long task and we are always growing up into the love of Christ through our lives.  When someone hurts us and we are so focused on our pain that the relationship seems unreconcilable, our only hope is Christ.  He loves people before they love him and so should we.  Sometimes people wrong us intentionally or unintentionally and are out of touch with their sinfulness as far as we can tell and we should forgive them.  Crying foul is perfectly okay.  Disciplinary action, complaints filed, confrontation: all good and okay, but we still must forgive.  You can and should forgive and confront.  "You hurt me, ripped me off, were unfair... and I forgive you."

Reconciliation is a two way street.  Both parties have to want it.  We need to do our part to be open to it and make the way for it through love and forgiveness.  The other person may not forgive, they may lack love and so any meaningful reconciliation is not possible.  But we should forgive in love and be ready to reconcile like the father in the prodigal son story, when and if they ever are ready.


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Bibliography (for more study I recommend these books):

Caring Enough To (Not) Forgive, David Augsburger

The Freedom of Forgiveness, David Augsburger

The Transformation of The Inner Man, John and Paula Sandford

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