We were shocked when a woman associated with a dark time in our past had the nerve to show up at a family reunion. She had broken up my father's family when he was a young boy, and despite our attempts at reconciliation she had never confessed and asked forgiveness for the mess she had made. Yet here she was, butting in on our reunion and demanding to be treated like family!
We weren't sure how to respond. Go too light, say "no problem" and warmly welcome her, and we risked trivializing her offense. Go too dark, nurse our grudge and fantasize about revenge, and we risked denying the grace that God has extended to us. We wondered what forgiveness meant in this situation (Colossians 3:13).
Hereâ€˜s what we realized: The goal of forgiveness is reconciliation. While not all broken relationships can be repaired in this life, for example, battered spouses and children must be protected from their abusers, we must work toward reconciliation between the offender and his victim.
This reconciliation requires that the offender repent, ask forgiveness, and, when appropriate, make restitution. For her part, the victim must release the offender from the need to pay for his sin. She chooses to absorb the cost herself and, rather than plot revenge, commits to love and seek his best.
This can be excruciatingly difficult. Many journeys of forgiveness are too arduous to complete on the spot. But we who have been forgiven by God must commit to forgiving others, and so, after catching our breath, we brace for another push in their direction (v.12).
C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend: "Last week, while at prayer, I suddenly discovered, or felt as if I did, that I had really forgiven someone I had been trying to forgive for over 30 years. Trying, and praying that I might."
Sometimes the breakthrough comes unexpectedly. , Mike Wittmer, Our Daily Journey
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