I’ve been considering forgiveness lately. Not forgiveness of the little slights and sins that come every day from rubbing shoulders with the rest of humanity. But forgiveness of the really egregious sins … forgiveness when real pain has been inflicted and real harm has been done, perhaps with malice aforethought.
The pain, the hurt, the grief that is caused by such acts as flagrant adultery, peddling drugs, physical abuse, etc. The list is a long one, highly-individualized, and added to every day.
As I considered sin and our call to grant forgiveness, I was struck anew at how hard it is to forgive. And I believe that is, actually, appropriate.
After all, in order to offer true forgiveness, we have to come to grips with true evil. If we just flippantly say, “Yes, I forgive you!” but we have not truly understood either the corruption of the human heart or the pain such evil has caused another, our words are devoid of meaning. It is only after we have felt the horror of evil that our offer of forgiveness can be real.
Too often, however, we stop there. We are paralyzed by the evil, and so we cannot offer the balm of forgiveness.
It is vital to take the second step: to grasp the infinite love, grace, and forgiveness of God. Love that is greater than the horror of true evil. Grace that reaches to the unbelievable depths of corruption in the human heart. Forgiveness that calls the foulest sinner into perfect and intimate relationship with a holy God.
Only then – having truly comprehended both the nature of evil and the triumph of the Cross – can we then begin to extend fully the forgiveness of God to a needy world.