We conclude our deeper dig into Biblical forgiveness with a simple twin observation: our need for forgiveness and our need to forgive. Perhaps by now that observation is already clear. There are several things we hope for in life. Peace and love, for instance. Healing of our inner heart wounds. Release from the prisons of addiction and hopelessness. As we dig a bit deeper, we’ll find that forgiveness is the root of all of these.
Peace and reconciliation begin and thrives with forgiveness. In the Old Testament Law, specifically Leviticus 4:26-35, the “Peace Offering” concludes with a declaration of forgiveness. In the New Testament, Paul identifies Jesus as the means by which we are reconciled with God. “And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5:11, NASB95) But even between people and nations true peace begins with at least one side forgiving the other in some way.
Love also relies on this root of forgiveness. We know it through experience that as soon as we begin to hold onto offenses instead of forgiving our love begins to grow cold. We may be able to prop love up with other gestures, but once that foundation of unforgiveness is established we are just going through the motions.
Our heart, our soul, can be wounded by so many things. Hurtful words, neglectful actions, intentional self-centeredness, slights to our personhood, dignity, and character. These wounds can fester and eventually lead to bitterness and hatred. It may seem that we feel better when striking out with anger or passive aggressive revenge. All that does, however, is numb the wound for a time, it does not heal the gash. Healing of our soul begins with forgiveness. Receiving forgiveness from Christ and forgiving others of the sins which wounded us.
Likewise, the wounds we cause to ourself through addiction are healed through forgiveness. Our addictions generally stem from two sources, unresolved pain from our past or a deep need which we cannot satisfy. The path out of those chains is paved with forgiveness. Forgiving the others, perhaps even forgiving God if we blame Him for our circumstances and forgiving ourself. Walking this path leads us out of the hopelessness of addiction.
Lastly, it takes energy to stoke the fires of hatred, anger, and bitterness. Those emotions require much of us but provide little in return. Conversely, forgiving others also requires effort but provides an abundant return. Both hatred and forgiveness will bring about change. But look further down the road. Once our hate is satisfied, those we have wounded will retaliate in their own hatred – a never ending cycle of violence unless broken by forgiveness or exhaustion. Forgiving others changes our world in a way that builds up rather than tears down. Forgiveness invites open dialog instead of shouting over one another.
In short, we need more forgiveness in our lives and in our world to defeat the merchants of hatred and division. More forgiveness to overcome the wounds and addictions of our soul. Deeper roots of forgiveness in Christ to grow more love, more grace, and more peace in our lives.