Summary: God by his grace has given believers the power to forgive others when they have offended us. How do we do that? Why do we bother?
The Revolutionary Power of Forgiveness
When the first missionaries came to Alberta, Canada, they were savagely opposed by a young chief of the Cree Indians named Maskepetoon. But he responded to the gospel and accepted Christ. Shortly afterward, a member of the Blackfoot tribe killed his father.
Maskepetoon rode into the village where the murderer lived and demanded that he be brought before him. Confronting the guilty man, he said, "You have killed my father, so now you must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes. Tell your people that this is the way Maskepetoon takes revenge."
In utter amazement and remorse his enemy exclaimed,
"My son, now you have killed me!" He meant, of course, that the hate in his own heart had been completely erased by the forgiveness and kindness of the Indian chief.
His father’s murderer continued "Never in the history of my people has such a thing as this been known. My people and all men will say ’The young Chief is brave and strong and good. He stands alone.’"
Forgiveness is costly. Forgiveness is vital. There is a power in forgiveness. It is a revolutionary power, it is the power of altering, healing, fixing reality -the reality of relationships. And especially if you are a follower of Jesus Christ today, you possess, in Jesus Christ, this costly, profound and revolutionary power.
Romans 12:17-21: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: ’If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head’. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Forgiveness is very, very hard for humans to do on their own. There are reasons not to forgive. To forgive means to absorb the pain of an offense. It means taking that pain which is insulated a little by the anger and bitterness that the pain caused, and acquitting the offense that is the cause of the pain, exposing it to the light of grace. Unmerited, perhaps undeserved, favour.
There is a lot of mental and emotional work involved in forgiving someone. If you’ve ever tried to forgive someone a very real offense, you know what I’m talking about. There is a serious price to pay when the choice is made to forgive a person. Sometimes we can get use to being angry at a person or at people.
That anger focuses us like nothing else in life, or so we think. We feed off that anger. So to forgive, to release that anger, really changes something very familiar in our life. Without that anger to focus on, we may not know what to do with ourselves.
To forgive means to say, “What you have said or done has truly and deeply hurt me, yet though I feel the pain of what you have done, I choose to release you of penalty.