For this Sunday’s soul train I was thinking of a different topic until I saw the news on CNN about the Charleston Massacre where twenty-one year old Dylann Roof shot dead nine people during a Bible study programme at a church in Charleston, South Caroline, USA.
As I sat beside my husband watching his bond hearing that Friday I became engulfed with an unspeakable fury. The fury was more poignant than the pain I was feeling for the victims’ families. I stared at his expressionless, remorseless face and I hated him.
Yes, I hated him and I felt my hate was justified even when his was not.
Moments later, representatives of the victims’ families (most of them close members of the victims) started to speak and I was struck dumb by their willingness to forgive. I did not feel shame at my unforgiving, judgmental heart but I felt humbled by these people’s—the real victims—willingness to allow God show them the route to forgiveness.
When the bond hearing ended, I stepped out and I continued to think on the matter. Not on what that young man had done—I still couldn’t bear to think leniently of him. I focused instead on what these heartbroken, mourning people had said. Then I realised, as I pondered, that forgiveness is a grace. A grace only God can give.
Forgiveness is a grace. It is a grace bestowed upon the willing heart by God. You cannot inspire forgiveness into your heart without God’s help. And you cannot earn forgiveness.
Forgiveness cannot be earned.
There is no amount of reparation or restitution that can undo the sin you have committed against another. When we hurt another person—in any way whatsoever—we cannot undo that hurt, that harm, no matter how hard we try to and whatever we do.
My mother while she was young and the Catholic Faith was still all new for her and in my hometown, she had gone one day for confession and witnessed the White Priest slap this penitent at the confessional. My mother had been shocked and instantly afraid, she ran away without making her confession.
Now, it was later told that the Priest slapped the man because he would always come to confess that he had borne false witness against his neighbour. And again and again the Priest would recommend that he desist from such a sin as that was tantamount to killing one’s neighbour. That fateful day he came and confessed same sin and the Priest, angered by his unrepentant nature, slapped him.
I’d like to state that the Priest only acted within the limitation of his humanity. What he did was wrong and unacceptable to the Catholic doctrine. And he did later apologise for his anger and the unjustified slap.
But before he did apologise, he made the man bring a live cock and asked him to pull off all the feathers and then instructed him to take the cock back home and observe it to see if all the feathers will ever grow back. Suffice to say that that cock was never again the same.
The same apply to the victims of the Charleston Massacre and to everyone we hurt, they are never the same after our offence. By our offence and sin, something is taken forcefully from them and no matter how hard we try, we can’t quite restore that something.
The grace of forgiveness. We are all in dire need of that grace because we will be offended and we will offend. And our God asks that we forgive.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).
So says Our God, Our Creator, Our Redeemer and Our Friend. And so did He on the Cross at Calvary—Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Does that make it easy? Heck no!!!
It is so easy to say I forgive you. It is easy to say but not as easy to do. Do we even realise that true forgiveness goes hand-in-hand with forgetting that offence? It is FORGIVE AND FORGET. If you have forgiven, you should recall no more.
See now why I said it’s not easy? See now why it is a grace God alone can give?
I tell you, I consider myself the most unforgiving creature ever to live. When someone does even the tiniest thing to hurt me, I am, there and then, already thinking up a million-and-one ways to get back at them.
If M (hubby) does something that pains and hurts me, I sit in my corner contemplating what I could do to hurt him even more. And I do love M… I really do. But that doesn’t stop me scheming my payback plan. And if I can’t do anything, I SAY it. That is my greatest weapon, hurt him back with words… And it never, ever fails to hit its mark.
Yet, I watched these people be willing to forgive. They are willing. It is not going to come like magic. They are still hurting and they’ll hurt for a long, long time. But they are willing to let go and let God. They are willing to allow God in and fill them with His Grace of forgiveness.
But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses. (Mathew 6:15 ESV).
Forgiveness is conditional—not for the offender—but for the victim. Imagine that!
We won’t be forgiven our own offenses—and we all know how bountiful are our offenses against God, don’t we? Yet, we won’t obtain forgiveness for them unless we accord forgiveness first.
It is tough for me. I own that freely. It is the hardest thing for me. It is harder than going out and spreading the Good News… and boy, is that hard for me. But Forgiveness is even harder.
Yesterday I was reading something on the Stella Dimoko Korkus blog and on the comment section, someone recommended the wife continued to pray for her erring her husband. I was furious. I was so furious, I started ranting… of course M ignored me.
But I ranted and ranted on how the man was expected to get away with his crimes while the wife should pray. I didn’t remember forgiveness. I didn’t think of compassion. I didn’t recall unconditional love… I only thought of the sin of infidelity. I was so mad, so infuriated, yet the sin wasn’t committed against me.
By the time I was saying my night prayers, I realised I needed Jesus in a big, big, BIG way. I need Him to teach me forgiveness. I need Him to give me the grace of forgiveness.
We all need that grace.
Forgiveness is a grace. It is a grace that heals. When you refuse another forgiveness, you carry a bigger burden than that offender. You are forever plotting and re-plotting and scheming and scheming anew. And I promise you, plotting and scheming is so energy-consuming. It drains you—emotionally, mentally, physically. It gives you a headache. It increases your blood pressure.
I can’t list the number of headache, even migraines, I’ve suffered whilst plotting my payback plans. It is so fatiguing. You are worn out even before you carry out that plan. Dang! *Sorry, Lord*
I’ve talked much today… pardon me please. This is such an inexhaustible topic and we’ll surely revisit it *many time*. But the lesson here is that forgiveness is not something we can do on our own. It is a grace we desperately need from God every day.
We need to always pray for the grace of forgiveness. And we need to remember that when we don’t forgive, we cannot be forgiven… and more than that, we make ourselves sick just bearing a grudge against another.
Today, pray with me—Father, teach me to forgive and give me the grace to be always willing to forgive.
Do have a blessed week ahead.
*Remember, you can volunteer to share a thought on Soul Train, just indicate on the comment section and send me your thought: firstname.lastname@example.org*