Strange and wonderful things happen at seminary, especially in Dr. Mulholland’s class. (As I heard J.D. Walt say about the professors here: they are human wikipedia, I concur about Dr. Mulholland.) I am sitting in my New Testament Intro class and we are talking about the Lord’s Prayer and the statement forgive us as we forgive others.
Now we could have a problem with this thinking that God won’t forgive us, if we are unforgiving towards others, but the reality is that when we are unforgiving, we are not open to be forgiving because we are holding on tightly to our own bitterness. Forgiving is not as much about freeing another person from the guilt of their actions, but it is more about the freeing of ourselves from the bitterness in our hearts that we hold on to. It is only after we release that bitterness and anger that we can be the Way we were made to be. Now this is not an easy experience because we all like to see justice being done. We want others to feel the pain that we felt, but through forgiveness we release ourselves from that bondage and allow God to flow through us again.
Dr. Mulholland said “Forgive and forget. That is the stupidest phrase in the human language.” He said that because it is so difficult to forget, and more importantly forgiveness is often a process. How many times as old “forgiven” bitterness crept into your heart. Slowly and continually as those feelings come up we are to forgive again, and over the process of time that bitterness will not hold us down over time.
There is an important distinction to be made between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness can be done even when the person who has wronged us admits to no such evil, but reconciliation is our mutual admit to bring wholeness back to a situation, where forgiveness is a huge part of it, and part of the grace of forgiveness is to set up appropriate boundaries to guide both sides to a fuller relationship with God.
In my last church experience, This was a tough lesson to learn, and I didn’t learn it in a classroom, but in reality, and I admit that I was and still am working on forgiving people. I still hold some bitterness and anger, and I pray that one day I will be free from those feelings. It’s tough to forgive, but it is even tougher to reconcile because everyone involved must be involved in that process, and we must come willingly already forgiving one another, so that we are free to see anew. We are free to see the situation not through the lens of our brokenness, because hurt people have great difficulty seeing the hurt of others through their own hurt, but through the lens of redemption and grace, where we see the world through God’s eyes, and live in God’s world using his Kingdom principles.