Blue Flower

For a variety of reasons practising forgiveness is difficult for us. The feeling of being in the right is always a significant factor - if this feeling is very strong, the whole idea of climbing down becomes almost impossible.

In some cases, the offence committed is so fundamental that forgiveness seems out of the question.

Two recent examples illustrate this...

The murder of Stephen Lawrence has been highlighted in the press of late, because April 22, 2018 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of this appalling crime – Stephen was killed simply because he was black. The coverage included the remarkable news that his father has forgiven the perpetrators of the crime.

Racial issues were also raised by the treatment meted out from the UK Home Office to members of The Windrush Generation - British citizens who came to the UK from the Commonwealth as children following the Second World War, and whose rights were guaranteed in the Immigration Act of 1971. They were named The Windrush generation after the British ship Empire Windrush, which arrived in 1948 at Tilbury Docks in Essex with 492 Caribbean passengers. The parents came to help the UK in the difficult post World War II period, a time of great need for Britain, and now their children's citizenship has been questioned, and even denied, by government policy that is misguided at best, and has been called deliberate by some knowledgeable commentators. A wholesale apology was offered to them by the Prime Minister, with the promise of individual help for the suffering caused, but how can they forgive such treatment?

Put yourself in the shoes of these shamefully wronged folk; how should you react?

As Christians, we should look to the Bible for guidance, and the first point of reference is the Lord Jesus Christ himself – in his teaching on how to approach God in prayer…

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. [Matthew 6:9-13] [See also Luke 11:1-4.]

In the prayer, the Lord very quickly alerts us to the importance of forgiveness, providing the practical and spiritual requirements for true belief in God. He continued…

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [Matthew 6:14-15]

A relationship with God, therefore requires a commitment to forgiveness and Jesus recognised the difficulties this presents because he also was the subject of prejudice, including determined and violent persecution and eventually murder. Throughout his life, however, he was faithful to God’s word in all things, including forgiveness – even as he was nailed to the cross he prayed…

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. [Luke 23:34]

In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus summarises the matter like this...

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

Our problems might seem to be insurmountable but if we are looking for a relationship with God who will forgive us, it is necessary that we forgive each other.

For more of Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness, a couple of parables come to mind…

1. The Lost Son      [Luke 15:11-32]

2. The Unforgiving Servant      [Matthew 18:21-35] [VS]