I have been thinking about forgiveness after being inspired by Jo Ibbott’s challenge in her talk yesterday to Freedom Church as part of our You Are What You Grow series that ‘if we want to pursue faithfulness in our relationships then forgiveness will be required.’
Forgiveness is not easy. The songwriter and recording artist, Elton John, penned the words ‘always seems to me that sorry seems to be the hardest word’. In R T Kendalls excellent book Total Forgiveness, he talks about how his lack of forgiveness kept him ‘in chains’ and that it took him years to realise that he would never be released from those chains until he had forgiven the other person. Nelson Mandela is attributed to have said that ‘unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies!’
Jesus talks a lot about forgiveness in the Bible, but his most definitive teaching is in Matthew 18. The conversations starts out with Peter asking Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him, suggesting a ceiling limit of seven times only. Jesus replies saying “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven”. He then tells those listening the parable of the Unforgiving Servant who ends up in prison for not forgiving his friend and finishes with the words “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
In my role as a church leader, I have been involved in challenging disagreements that are damaging relationships that we care about. Sometimes these are my personal relationships that I am struggling to get back on track after a misunderstanding has taken place and sometimes it is as a listener to one side of the disagreement. When we get entrenched in disagreement, sides are being chosen, the relationship is collapsing and the original incident has been long been forgotten, one of the only ways to start a conversation that has the potential to bring healing back into the friendship with the other person is to say ‘I’m sorry’. No excuses, just simply sorry.
Saying sorry provides a break in the clouds that have formed over a crumbling relationship and gives an opportunity for the sun to shine once again.
Sorry is a hard word to say. It means that I am taking responsibility for my actions. It’s saying that I value my relationship with the other person more than simply being right.
Which is not easy…
…as I like being right,
but I love being in good relationship with my friends more!