Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Forgiveness as a Gift of Grace
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."--Mahatma Gandhi
In the book of Genesis, we read the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob wrestles with God, but then God gives Jacob the new name Israel which loosely translated means "he who wrestles with God." In Jacob's wrestling, we are reminded that we have a God that we can wrestle with when we are doubting and when we have questions. After Jacob wrestles with God, we expect him to be reunited with his brother as they fight. But the unexpected happens, Jacob and Esau don't fight. Actually Esau spots Jacob and runs directly for his brother. They embrace each other. In that interaction, we see the power and beauty of God's grace.
For someone to ask for forgiveness and for someone to give forgiveness takes a lot of courage and grace. As a young child, I was teased relentlessly. It took me a long time to forgive the individuals who teased me and to offer them grace. But I am, at that place, where I have been able to offer them grace and forgiveness. (Just don't expect me to be best friends with them)
It really takes a lot of courage to ask for forgiveness. Doesn't it? The first summer that I worked at Bible camp, many of the staff had worked at that camp for several summers already. They knew each other very well and stuck in their group of friends. There were times that many of us new staff felt very much excluded. But the gift of grace is that several years later, a few of those returning staff came to my friends and I. I remember one conversation in particular when one of the gentlemen looked at us and said, "I'm sorry. We never treated you very fairly." In hearing those words, I immediately saw the work of God's hand at play. God's grace was being extended between all of us.
Forgiveness offered by and to each other is God's grace again placed on the table for us to receive and extend to each other. It is this gift of grace that reminds us that we are to offer forgiveness to one another.
"You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others."--Matthew 6:14 (The Message)