Forgiveness true Christian response

Published 9:38 am Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I think one of the hardest struggles faced by the humans is giving forgiveness.

Tainted by the legal right to hold others accountable for their actions, we are slow to practice forgiveness. I have run across a book that has helped me form a deeper understanding of forgiveness, especially as forgiveness relates to people who would call themselves Christian.

The book is called “Amish Grace.” It is written as a reflection on the forgiveness offered by the Amish Community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania toward Charles Roberts. Roberts is the man who boarded himself and some of the Amish school girls up in a school building October of 2006, ultimately killing himself and five of the girls.

The immediate response of the parents and the entire community was forgiveness.

While I cannot begin to bring myself to understand how forgiveness could so quickly be offered, nor can I bring myself to any firm resolution that I could offer that forgiveness, I must confess the Amish response to violence and evil at work in the world is the response spoken and lived out by Jesus.

The book defines forgiveness as the act where a person or a community gives up their right to seek revenge or bear a grudge toward an offender. Thought of in that way, forgiveness does not mean forgetting or acting as if something didn’t happen. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that offenses against us or against our loved ones shouldn’t make us angry. Sometimes people do things that are so painful, so hurtful that we can’t help but be angry. But, forgiveness understood as a Christian response to the people who do hurt us means that we are going to stand against the temptation to hurt them back.

There is some profound spirituality in that understanding of forgiveness. Forgiveness as a Christian response is not easy. It often tears against our fabric as people. But, forgiveness is the way of Christ. And, if Christ would be the Lord of our life … we must forgive.

Mark Davenport is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Alabaster (Cumberland).