A very important life lesson and one especially needing to be learned in the aftermath of tragedy is HOW TO FORGIVE. Given the emotion tied to tragedy it is not likely that you will forget, so you particularly must choose to forgive, that is, if you can grant forgiveness (please read through to understand this). If you do not at least allow for forgiveness, you will compound any difficulty or problem and tragedy will be looming. What about the injustice? What about what was done to negatively impact you? What about those who by action or even inaction have brought pain into your life?
There is much misunderstanding about what it means to forgive. Forgiveness is not necessarily what is meant when one says, “I apologize” (I’ll likely speak to this more in a later blog). Forgiveness is also something you cannot simply grant, for forgiveness is a promise. Forgiveness is basically, “release from a debt.” When you forgive another person you are saying that you will not hold them responsible for any wrong they may have done toward you. It means that you are releasing that wrong from any comment or justice in the present and in the future. If you are really forgiving someone, then you will not even be talking about what wrong was done by that person or group and using it negatively against them.
Maybe you are thinking, “This is IMPOSSIBLE; I can’t forget what happened and not even mention that this wrong was done to me.” What about their need to pay for what they did? Well, if you are actually forgiving, then you will not talk or even think about how the action or inaction hurt you. Forgiveness is a serious and demanding thing! It should not be taken so lightly or misrepresented, as it often is. You will hear people say, “You just have to forgive” or “If you don’t forgive, you will only hurt yourself.” Well, there are elements of truth there, but more must be understood.
A systematic understanding of Scripture is essential for understanding here. I do not have room to detail all of this here. A basic understanding of logic and a concept of right and wrong also helps. If we are to have justice and equity for all, then we cannot automatically have forgiveness. There must be an accounting for actions that are not beneficial or especially ones that are harmful to others. You would not want to simply forgive someone who robs you. You cannot simply release a person who decides to go out and rape or kill others. There must be justice and there must be learning from what happened. The Bible says that while it appears justice is often not immediately realized, those who are trusting in the LORD know that HE will eventually hold everyone accountable for every work and even every idle word or secret thing (see verses, such as Ecclesiastes 12:14). Jesus was even specific about this:
“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36
We must leave the ultimate judgment and sense of justice to the LORD! That is His job, and we cannot try to do this for Him. Doing so is wrong and taking vengeance into your own hands will only cause more problems and even more tragedy. God has established authorities, which I am detailing in the book. There must be an acknowledgement of the wrong and a request for forgiveness for there to be a full release from a debt. So, what if someone will not or cannot (if dead) seek forgiveness? Well, personally, we are told to give our burdens to the LORD, so we cannot hold onto wrongs. In that sense there is a release of the burden of wrong in our heart, which is the willingness of forgiveness that must first be present before actual release from any debt (forgiveness) can be granted. If someone does acknowledge the wrong and even ask for forgiveness, a believer in Jesus Christ is required to extend this forgiveness.
We each MUST have God’s forgiveness to even be able to forgive! God is willing to forgive us if we first acknowledge Jesus’ payment for our sin. If we do not accept God’s plan for forgiveness, then we will receive His perfect justice. He paid for your sin through His life’s blood on the cross. He was buried and defeated death through His Resurrection. Believe on Him and accept Him as your personal Savior!
Be FORGIVEN and LEARN To Forgive as He forgives! Only then, can you truly prevail.