The school year is almost over, so it’s time to explore our last character-driven theme of the year. In a fallen world, no one can survive without this quality. Beyond survival, no one can thrive without it. We learn the need of it even before we go to kindergarten. I suppose it’s like the white cells in our blood stream – necessary in order to keep us clean, protected, and alive. You’ve probably figured it out. It is a form of love that is called forgiveness.
We need it so badly and so constantly, that is, I know I do, so that it becomes at times difficult to discuss and at other times so joyful to describe. It is both beautiful and terrible. Beautiful to receive, but horrible to need. Freeing and relieving to give just as it is to accept.
Our school’s character curriculum defines forgiveness as “canceling a debt or wrong and not holding it against someone” (Matt. 6:12). For those who are aware of their own debts and for those who have been sinned against in ways that cut deeply, this definition takes your breath away. This subject is too large to cover, but I’m hoping the Lord will give me some insight that will be helpful to some readers.
Before we can address anything about forgiveness, we need to place this quality within the context of the Creator of all. The Creator is Lord. Dr. John Frame describes God as Lord from three angles: His Authority, His Control, and His Presence.* Place those three concepts on a pyramid shaped visual aid, locate all the passages you can that relate to them and arrange them on your pyramid, and then simmer on these truths for a while – maybe for the rest of your life.** Forgiveness will then take on new meaning and sense, no matter how much it hurts to accept or offer. And the glory of it will shine through.
Wherever we are on the path of spiritual growth, we are all learning to love God more and love others more. Bible truths are always to be understood within the context of who God is, who we are (who we’re becoming in Christ), and what God is doing in the world. Forgiveness holds meaning within the settings of our lives. Thus, concepts and principles become absorbed into our life stories as themes and character changers.
If we apply the concept of forgiveness within the story I recently told you of that tall, handsome aeronautical student I met in California (who became my husband), then we can see that he may have needed to grapple with forgiveness as a child, for he learned that his birth parents from Edmonton, Alberta chose not to keep him. He also knew his adoptive parents chose him! Last month I wrote about the dancer, Sokvannara (Sy) Sar. Sy had hurts about leaving Cambodia and coming to the United States. If you watch the documentary, Dancing Across Borders, you will observe times when some kind of forgiveness and coming to terms with life around him would give him grace.
Why forgive? Is it an end in itself? Who benefits? Does forgiveness foster the enabling of others to do wrong? How did Jesus forgive? We’ll tackle these and maybe a few other questions during the rest of this month.
How do you define forgiveness? How do you process forgiveness (being forgiven and forgiving others)? I’d love to have some input from you!
* John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 1987).
** Sample Verse List for the God is Lord Pyramid:
His Authority: Genesis 1:1; Psalm 147:5; Rom. 1:20; Matt. 28:18.
His Control: Isaiah 45:9; 64:8; Jer. 18:6; Matt. 6:25-34; Eph. 1:3-10.
His Presence: Psalm 139: 7-12; 31:20; 89:15; Matt. 28:20; John 14:16-18.