I was trying to get a laptop back into a meaningful state of functionality after it was sent back to me by Compaq with its original Win2k installation and nothing more on the hd (i.e., waiting for updates to download, installing virus protection, etc.). So I had the TV in the room on, and was watching a 20/20 program on ten popular myths. It was quite interesting. But the last segment was simply amazing, from a Christian point of view, anyway. They talked about forgiveness, and interviewed two women who forgave people of horrible crimes against them and their families. You could see John Stossel struggling with how anyone could forgive others in that fashion. The idea, of course, was that pent-up hatred, to quote one of the people in the segment, is like pouring Draino down your throat: it messes you up. I have used a very similar description. I have said hatred is the battery-acid of emotions.
But what really caught my attention was the final few words offered by Stossel. Paraphrasing, he said, “I really admire these folks for their ability to forgive. I just do not think I would be able to do it.” And I sat there thinking, “Exactly. You can’t…none of us can…unless.”
Col. 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
Those who have not been forgiven find it impossible to forgive. The power that allows us to truly forgive is the same power that has brought us forgiveness. This is one reason why the sticky sentimentality of so much of modern evangelicalism really robs believers of the true power of the Christian faith: we can truly forgive others because we see the cross not as the Big Failure where God tries and fails in so many cases, but for what it truly is. We can see it in its fulness: that place where justice, holiness, wrath, mercy, grace, and love all come together in that one glorious place and time, meeting, and being resolved perfectly, in the Incarnate Son. The person who sees in Christ that perfect atonement for his or her own sins, and understands the great price by which redemption full and free has been purchased, has the ability to forgive others. Only the forgiven forgive. And so Stossel was right: we can’t, but He can, in us.