“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive,” wrote C.S. Lewis in his classic Mere Christianity. Crises can bring front and center many people and things you need to forgive. It’s hard and may not be what you want to do, but forgiving someone is a supremely important and “lovely” thing to do.
In the first days following my diagnosis with stage four lung cancer, many people reached out to me. This included some who had hurt me over the course of my life. As they genuinely wished me well, I realized how much resentment, anger, and ill-will I still harbored…so much unforgiveness.
Right away God revealed to me my need to forgive and started teaching me. I could hear Jesus’ words to his disciple Peter. He had asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother? Peter threw out a number. Is seven times enough??
Jesus replied, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22). Lord Jesus, I thought to myself, you have surely forgiven me a gazillion times!
I could not deny my unfaithfulness and hypocrisy. I knew Jesus had forgiven me time after time. Without his grace and mercy, I would have never made it this far. I knew full well he expected me to forgive others.
The words of Scripture, a lifetime of lessons, came cascading down upon me.
Jesus said, “Pray like this, Our Father in heaven… forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12, NLT).
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
One of the areas of my life in which I’ve grown more forgiving is as a husband. The Lord began his remedial work in me in my marriage. I had to learn to forgive both the small and what I perceived to be large offenses of marital life. I also needed to become better at seeking forgiveness, admitting my wrongs, apologizing, and making things right.
Forgiveness is a sacred art. It requires intentionality and practice. Without forgiveness, I doubt any marriage can survive. But with it, couples can thrive. For me, becoming a more forgiving husband is more meaningful to me than nearly anything good that has come from having cancer. It’s impact on my marriage has been so transformative and positive that in a way I’m glad I’ve had cancer. It’s that important.
To be honest, I’m a long way from sainthood! I continue to work on becoming more forgiving, doing it more often, more easily, and more quickly. As the saying goes, I’ve come a long way, but I’ve still got a long way to go! Forgiveness is hard. But given its supreme importance to God, we can count on him to help us.
Billy Graham says, “The key is to remember what Christ has done for us. We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness… yet Jesus Christ still gave His life for us, and now in His mercy, God offers us the free gift of forgiveness and new life. By faith accept Christ’s gift of forgiveness today. Then ask Him to help you forgive others, just as He has forgiven you—freely and fully.”(1)
Today’s world desperately needs more forgiveness, between nations and in governments. The USA seems more like the Unforgiving States of America than the United. Families and marriages need a forgiveness stimulus. Since the start of COVID19 divorce rates in the USA have skyrocketed. Calls to the National Domestic Hotline have also increased greatly.
Lord, have mercy. Come Lord Jesus come.