Devotional & Reflection

Week 1, Mar 2002

Eph 4:32 - Christian Forgiveness Revisited
By Robin Png, Director & Trainer, Ezra Resources

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ in God forgave you.

Have you ever been hurt before? Have you ever said to yourself "I cannot forgive that person. He / She wronged me and never even apologized to me. Why should I forgive him / her"? Sometimes we would hear someone say, "It is not fair that I have to forgive. My spouse doesn't deserve to be forgiven." Many of us have been hurt in relationships where trust is violated, leaving a deep scar of bitterness and hurt that would not go away with time. It is not surprising therefore to see many Christians never experience genuine forgiveness, let alone reconciliation. One wonders why it is so difficult to receive human forgiveness. Isn't it true that it seems easier to receive God's forgiveness, but not human's; hence the above command to be kind and compassionate when dealing with forgiveness.

Perhaps we need to revisit our attitudes toward forgivness especially towards those who have hurt us whether knowingly or unknowingly. Following are five most common obstacles we encounter in our effort to seek forgiveness. See if you can identify with any one of them.

Does forgiving someone put you one-up and make you feel a sense of superiority? This is definitely an unequal transaction, far from an adult-to-adult interaction. This kind of forgiveness assumes the forgiver to be a "spiritual Santa Claus" or a "Sugar Daddy" who could dispose the gift of "forgiveness" according to one's whim and fancy thus displaying an air of superiority.

Do you forgive a person by calling him or her to simply accept the pain and injustice - a one-way transaction? This is very true of some Christian wives who have quietly succumbed to spousal abuse for years. When the wives resort to legal means, the husbands would then plead for forgiveness in a most selfish way. Such narcissistic attitude goes to show that such forgiveness is actually loving submission on the part of the wives.

When you forgive, do you deny any hurt by numbing the feelings of pain and repressing emotions like bitterness and hatred, hoping that all is forgiven and forgotten. The psychological defense of denial is very subtle to many and some fall prey into it. Of course, there are others who, through numerous repetitions, have become masters for this trade. It is sad to see many defeated Christians whose lives operate on this mechanical survival kit to keep their sanity alive.

When you forgive, do you deny any involvement of anger and pretend that it's all forgotten? This is another mask that many Christian put on to hide the "real me". Many Christians would rather suffer silently than verbalising their frustration and angry feelings for fear of jeopardising the "peaceful" process of forgiveness. We reason away our silent suffering thinking Christians must be nice and respectful to one another - even at the expense of not exposing the truth.

Does forgiveness mean, "I have nothing to do with this person any more" and thereby close the door for future relationship? Here we have the offended party refusing to take any more risk. He or she starts to isolate himself or herself and probably would say, "Nobody can hurt me now. I can survive alone."

In writing to the Ephesian Christians, apostle Paul commanded them to "be kind and compassionate to one another". Here lies the key. Our attitude toward forgiving others must be one of kindness and compassion. Through Christ, we have experienced the kindness and compassion of God who has forgiven us with these qualities, in order that we may be empowered to do likewise, albeit on a human level. The law of sowing and reaping reminds us that we shall reap what we sow, hence the command to "be kind and compassionate to one another"!

1. When was the last time you received kindness and compassion from someone?
2. If you are struggling to forgive someone now, what is the one obstacle you can identify with as described above?
3. How can you move on to the next stage of releasing forgiveness?

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