If we journey the path of forgiveness, the world will notice and be drawn to the irresistible grace of God that leads to reconciliation, writes Chris Pullenayegem.
We are most like God when we love our enemies, says Ontario pastor Bruxy Cavey. Of course our prime example of that is Jesus, who loved his enemies by dying for them – for you and me.
It’s a seemingly bizarre and counterintuitive strategy for a religious leader to come with a mission to die, not live. Jesus’ death after three short years of ministry confused many religious pundits and yet, paired with His resurrection, turned out to be the most earthshattering event in history.
On the cross that day some 2,000 years ago, God offered forgiveness for a humanity that was going only one way – to an eternity where God was not.
“My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.” The words of that great hymn aptly describe God’s grace and forgiveness to us on this side of the cross. Unfortunately, it too often stops there. I have personally benefited and found new life through that grace. I gladly accepted God’s forgiveness and drank deeply from His well of grace, but why do I find it so hard to forgive others?
Why do I find it so hard to forgive others?
If it was only justice that God sought, we would all be in trouble. Yet, if we are honest, when we are hurt, that’s what we desire most of all, isn’t it? The desire for justice is a God-given attribute, so it seems natural we seek it. However, as Christians, is that where we are supposed to settle?
It’s helpful here to remember that Jesus taught His followers how to pray in the middle of His radical Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus inserted the petition “forgive our sins as we forgive others” in the centre of that prayer. He then singled out that one phrase for exposition immediately afterwards (Matthew 6:14-15). We easily miss the significance and potency of that sentence.
What we are really asking is that God forgives us the same way we forgive those who sin against us. How are we doing on the part we’re responsible for?
The willingness and power to forgive others are foundational aspects of Christian faith that differentiate Jesus’ disciples from adherents of other faiths. God not only commands us to forgive (following His example) but provides the power to do so through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness is the key to reconciliation
Why is this so important? What does forgiveness have to do with missions, evangelism or even world peace? In brief, forgiveness is the key to reconciliation. And reconciliation is what we are called to, as ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).
Christians and communities that cannot or do not forgive lose the moral and spiritual authority and integrity to proclaim the gospel. If we, as forgiven people, choose to harbour unforgiveness and withhold it from those who have hurt us, then we place ourselves in a position where we are spiritually and emotionally unhealthy and unable to be channels of grace that God has called us to be in the pursuit of reconciling the world to Himself.
Forgiving others has at least two consequences. First, it releases us from the bondage of bitterness, self-pity, evil desires such as revenge and even emotional and physical illness. Second, forgiveness opens the door to reconciliation and the dispensing of God’s grace to those who otherwise may never be exposed to it. Is this not God’s heart as He looks lovingly on a broken world desperately in need of His grace?
There are many things Satan can replicate – signs, supernatural works and a counterfeit religion among others. But Satan cannot forgive. To forgive goes against his very nature, and of course he prefers that the Church, the channel of grace and forgiveness, neglects this potent, heart-altering phenomenon and never unwraps it. So long as forgiveness is preached, studied and debated but not practised, Satan has success.
The key to peace and reconciliation is in the hands of every Christ follower. If we journey the path of forgiveness, the world will notice and be drawn to the irresistible grace of God that leads to reconciliation. Forgiveness is the Church’s best kept secret!
Chris Pullenayegem is director of the global diaspora collective within the Peace & Reconciliation Network, an initiative of the World Evangelical Alliance. Photo at top of page by Stefan Steinbauer from Unsplash. Read all the posts in this new blog series at faithtoday.ca/reconciling.