“How many times shall I forgive my brother?....Jesus said, ‘I say not seven times but seventy times seven.’” Matt: 18 21-22
Why forgive? So often people come to me with this very difficult response to a betrayal or hurt. Why indeed should we forgive? Does it matter? Does it change our lives? Does a hurt, a sorrow, or a slight cripple our lives, our marriage, or our friendships? Do we in our own self sufficiency continue to allow the pain to fester into a grudge, and then a grudge could grow into hatred, and hatred into revenge?
When I was in street ministry in Times Square nearly 40 years ago, I started a Bible study for members of the NY Police Department, called “Cops for Christ.” We met every Wednesday morning before their shifts started.
One of the cops, Kevin, got shot with multiple wounds trying to stop a robbery. He lingered between life and death. His recovery was slow and difficult. The NYPD, as are the FDNY, are like the “band of brothers.” They are loyal and dedicated to their jobs and to one another. After a three week manhunt, the shooter was captured and charged with attempted murder. As the months when by Kevin slowly recovered and attended the trial of his assailant. After the shooter was found guilty, the press asked Kevin what he felt about the verdict. He said how grateful he was to be alive and how proud he was to be a member of the NYPD and added he had always wanted to serve people. And then to the shock of the reporters, friends, and colleagues, he said, “I have forgiven the young man who tried to murder me.” A stunned silence filled the court room. One of the reporters said, “I can barely get along with my siblings. How in the world could you forgive him?” He said that as a follower of Christ the only way forward was to love and the most beautiful expression of love is forgiveness.
Maybe as we think about our own lives, we can contemplate how an unforgiving spirit can create fear, judgement, anxiety, unneeded sorrow and suffering both in our own lives and the lives of others. To hang on to one’s hurts and slights destroys our relationships, causes pain for us and for others, and prevents us from receiving the grace that is available to us. Love always opens the door to mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Love is the center piece of the gospel, the power of the cross, and the joy of the resurrection. Love never ends.
As I continue to provide spiritual direction and relationship counsel, I ask what prevents us from moving towards forgiveness? Pride, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, denial, judgement, self-abasement, even the fear that if we forgive, we might have to ask to be forgiven as well. So here is one way to start. Try saying I am sorry, will you forgive me? And remember “faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these are love.”
Your friend in Christ,
P.S. Our third grandchild was born July 11th (Sheila’s birthday!), the first baby for our son Max and his wife Lauren. Bo Xavier Weber was 10 lbs. 9oz and 21.5 inches! Baby Bo is doing well. His parents are adjusting, with love and excitement!