There is a big difference between forbearance and forgiveness. We speak of bearing with other people, not simply when someone is looking up details and we are hanging on for an answer. Forbearance takes great patience in order to put up with someone’s foibles. If in doubt, just ask my wife! Forgiveness involves dealing with the wrong in a merciful way, granting a pardon, so as to achieve reconciliation. When we forgive it will lead to restoring the relationship. When we don’t forgive it leads to an erosion of the relationship and ultimately a cycle of alienation can set in.
Various novels look at this theme. One tells of how a marriage disintegrates over the failure of the wife to replace soap in the bathroom. In the husband’s mind this was a very big issue. His wife refused to admit that she forgot to replace it. Neither would ask for forgiveness, so they slept in separate bedrooms for seven months and ate in silence!
The daily and worldwide need for forgiveness means that where forgiveness is practiced it introduces a revolutionary change into hostile situations. Where forgiveness is withheld there will be a real alienation, with a growing bitterness that hangs over as a legacy of the past.
Jesus told a story about a servant who owed a huge fortune to his master. The master confronted the servant asking to be repaid or else be thrown in jail. The servant pleaded for mercy to be let off the debt. The master agreed to free him from his debt. Later the servant met a colleague who owed him a very small sum of money. He was aggressive in asking to be repaid. The colleague said he wasn’t able to pay and asked to be let off. The servant refused and got him thrown in jail until he paid up. When news got back to the master he was furious and tore him off a strip before throwing him in jail to be tortured. Jesus said: “this is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew ch.18 v35).
Followers of Jesus are those who have come to know the forgiveness that reconciles us to God: the biggest debt of all has been cancelled. It makes giving and receiving forgiveness possible and also revolutionary.
Come and hear more at our special event on Sunday 23rd March as we listen to two speakers tackle the topic: ‘Is forgiveness possible?’ See details in the magazine or church website.