You may have read a letter to the editor of this fine newspaper entitled “Thoughts on Forgiveness.” A really good friend of mine (Oldsters will remember Phil Gaglardi using that phrase) wrote that letter. He and I have quite different views on religion and politics. That’s why he included a thinly veiled reference to me in the letter. I liked the part where he forgives me for forgiving him. It’s actually quite easy to forgive him, and I appreciated the thoughts in the letter.
Defining forgiveness is not easy. The best definition I have found is: “Giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me.” In fact, forgiveness is a topic close to my heart. I just see to many people being eaten alive by hatred toward someone who has wronged them. The end result is a deep hurt that only cuts further down into one’s life and soul.
We are once again seeing a petition urging the parole board to deny David Shearing a parole of some sort. I have no problem with signing that petition. The magnitude of David’s crime would indicate to me that he should serve out his entire life sentence. I can also understand it if he says he has been forgiven by God, but the Johnson-Bentley family might see otherwise.
Christians understand and undertake “Forgiveness” in a manner that often confuses those not sharing their convictions. I well remember a grandfather expressing to me his forgiveness of the young man who had just confessed to setting a fire that killed three of his grandchildren. Such thinking is totally incomprehensible to many people.
Several times during his short ministry Jesus often encouraged forgiveness. One such command is found in Matthew 5:44: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” ESV. Then we have the example of Jesus forgiving those who condemned him to death Luke 23:33-34: “And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. (34) And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments” ESV. Other verses remind us of how we are forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrificial love Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you ESV”.
I assure you, forgiveness is not easily given, nor is it to be given idly.
Forgiveness does not mean that justice is ignored. It would be wrong to set criminals free in the name of forgiveness alone. I think that a person who is judged guilty of breaking the law is obligated to serve the sentence set out by the courts. I just wonder if Jesus would say the same thing?
– Lloyd Strickland, Clearwater Christian Church