Lifelong struggle – forgiveness

By Dave Henning / March 19, 2023

“By not forgiving, I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing my freedom.  A forgiven person forgives.  This is what we proclaim when we pray ‘and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.’  This lifelong struggle lies at the heart of the Christian life.”- Henri Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak (1990)

“Do not say, ‘I’ll do to them as they have done to me, I’ll pay them back for what they did.’ “- Proverbs 24:29 (NIV)

Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 6 of Forgive as he stresses the need to do more than forgive perpetrators.  We must also point out the injustice of their actions.  Yet, on the other hand, it’s not enough to simply seek justice.  Because if you fail to forgive, you wind up going beyond justice into vengeance.  As a result, you don’t free yourself from the actions of your offender.

Thus, two ways exist to pursue justice – out of vengeance and out of love.  But if you choose to satisfy your anger and desire to see the wrongdoer suffer, that serves to harden your heart.  In addition, that makes you more capable of hurting people yourself from that point forward.  Furthermore, you allow your offender to retain some control over you.

However, you can also choose to pursue justice out of love.  Consequently, it’s our job to help our perpetrators acknowledge their wrongdoing, out of love for:

  • them
  • potential future victims
  • the human community
  • God

Above all, Christians seeking justice use the cross as their guide – the doctrine of justification by faith.  On one hand, we note God’s supreme concern to uphold justice.  And on the other hand, the doctrine of justification reminds us of our own wrongs.  That God has forgiven us when we act as perpetrators of injustice.  Hence, we pursue justice tirelessly with humility.  We commit deeply to justice without a condescending attitude toward the unjust.

Today’s question: How do you see forgiveness as a lifelong struggle?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Lenten/Easter Short Meditation, “Silence happens on Saturday”

About the author

Dave Henning

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