Once again, forgiveness is splitting the crowd. This concept is perhaps one of the most powerful ideas that work to divide even friends.
We see this play out across various social media platforms as the world watched as Brandt Jean, Bothan Jean’s brother publicly forgives and hugs the woman who killed him.
Many are angry not because he showed mercy but mainly because of the narrative around forgiveness in the black community. Many are rejecting forgiveness as a sign of weakness because of years of ignored trauma, pain and injustice.
The impact of trauma
Often we are asked to forgive grave atrocities without a lack of acknowledgement of the pain. Many perhaps see this as a way to soothe the hurt.
Society must acknowledge the pain, accept the event that caused the pain and be fair with expectations from perpetrators. This stance will send a strong language of support to those who are hurting.
However, throughout the year’s people claiming to be Christians have caused a lot of harm and pain. They have shown partiality despite being cautioned In Job 13:10 ‘He will surely reprove you If you secretly show partiality.’
Pain need expression
Christians have misrepresented the love and character of Jesus for centuries, and now the world struggles with the concept of religion that we show. If we want to talk about forgiveness, I believe we have to go back to the template we’ve been given and draw examples from Him.
Many express their pain through anger and rage. Forgiveness is not a means to heal those emotions. Only those who have acknowledged the impact of the pain and allow themselves to heal can genuinely forgive.
Is God a part of the injustice?
I believe forgiveness serves a higher purpose, but it’s not for everyone.
I also believe God understands those times when we do not have the strength or the desire to forgive. What we do know is as Christians we cannot continue developing a relationship with God while deliberately holding on to unforgiveness, it’s counter-intuitive to the Christian walk, and it is undoubtedly not a weakness.
The person who can honestly forgive uses Jesus as an example. He forgave the people He came to save. Before killing Him, they beat, spat on and insulted him. His friends rejected Him, betrayed him and left him to suffer alone.
Jesus’s suffering in no way excuses the hurt you are struggling with today. However, I hope it will be helpful to know that He was able to forgive. Because of that, we have the power to forgive.
The ability to pardon someone for deep hurt and pain comes only from the connection that we have with Christ. Forgiveness in no way excuse the guilty, this is where most struggle. Are we letting them off the hook?
God doesn’t regard things as we do. And though He loves the guilty it in no way clear them or exonerate them for what they did.
There are many promises in scripture that can give the hurting hope. He will ‘visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the third and fourth generation of them that hate me but showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments’. Exodus 34:7
We also learn that ‘everyone must bear fruits worthy of repentance’.
‘If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; (22) for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you’. Proverbs 25: 21-22
So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:12
Perhaps this is where people often struggle the narrative around forgiveness does not include these verses. The dialogue tends to shy away from the side of God that doesn’t excuse the guilty.
It is difficult to let go when there’s no justice, and people are asked to forgive. I believe it gives a wrong image of God, one that is uncaring and unconcerned with the pain and suffering that victims and their families endure.
Forgiveness is not letting the people who hurt us off the hook; instead, when we forgive, we release them so that we can heal. Romans 12:19 ‘vengeance is mine, and I will repay says the Lord’ God will do what seems best.
The problem is the human spirit wants to have revenge. We want the person harmed, hurt, in pain as much as we are.
That’s human. But we are called to something greater which we accomplished through connection with Christ. This connection enables us to go to Him whenever we feel the need for revenge or the justification of holding on to feelings of anger and rage towards the guilty.
Forgiveness requires trust
Forgiveness requires trust. We believe in a power that we do not understand — hoping that God will not excuse the wrong done to us.
Acts 10: 34 – 35 ‘Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth, I perceive that God shows no partiality. (35) but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (emphasis mine)
We have to believe that He sees and understands our pain and will work on our behalf.
We have to trust that it will happen, and maybe we won’t see it in our lifetime. But when we believe we can comfortably let go of the unknown and leave it to God.
It is right in a crisis we have to dig deep, we have to call on resources that we do not have. Forgiving someone for taking our loved one, harming our children or for a lifetime of oppression and discrimination calls for strength that we do not have. It’s not a weakness, and it’s not ignorance. It’s getting to the place where we can know for sure that God is not unconcerned about our suffering and the guilty will not go unpunished.