We all have had to forgive others in our lives and no doubt people have had to forgive us. Forgiveness, which is so necessary in the Christian life, is a life-long struggle. If we want to live free and holy and be forgiven ourselves, we must forgive.
Most of us have heard that forgiveness is a decision. It is not a feeling. Our feelings are not truth. We don’t usually feel like forgiving. Jesus clearly tells us to forgive over and over again when he says to Peter. “I do not say to you to forgive up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Jesus means we are called to forgive continually until we die.
In the Catholic Catechism, the second part of #2843 reads, “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense, but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.” Of course, we feel hurt but the Holy Spirit can transform that hurt into compassion as we offer it to the Holy Spirit repeatedly.
Sometimes our tendency is to avoid at all cost those who have offended us. I totally understand that. I have done it. However, we can’t keep that up forever if we choose to forgive. A wise woman told me that persisting in avoiding people we have trouble with is like handing them the remote to our lives because we cannot forgive them. We give them power over our lives. They control where we go and don’t go, where we sit and don’t sit, etc. We time things and detour our paths all over the place.
The Bible, however, says, in Eph 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” If we avoid people, we cannot be obedient to this scripture. We cannot be kind and compassionate if we don’t see them. We need to pray and be inspired to show acts of love. We may even try to make a list of nice ideas we can do for this person. This puts us on the offense.
“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:20-21. This scripture tells us to ‘act out’ forgiveness — Give food, give drink. We do it so God can work in our lives and theirs.
Heaping burning coals is not an act of getting back at them. Burning coals was used to refine metals. Heaping burning coals melts it out. God has power to heap coals which opens them to God’s grace and brings conversion. It’s not a revenge thing but a beautiful thing.
Forgiveness takes time. It is a process but it does happen. God does it through our decision and efforts. I am able to have an enjoyable conversation with people that I never thought I would be able to talk to again. Forgiveness sets us free.
If we don’t forgive now, we will have to deal with it after we die. Personally, I would rather do it now.
Mary Ann / Mother Hen