Why? Forgiveness is incredibly powerful. “With each act of forgiveness,” write the authors, “whether small or great, we move toward wholeness… Forgiveness is how we bring peace to ourselves and our world.”
This is why forgiveness is indeed a most wonderful gift of grace from God. God forgives us and offers us the grace we need to forgive others. The command to forgive others is not a test of our faith, but a means of gaining freedom for ourselves and our community.
There is a growing consensus in scientific research that those who are forgiving people have fewer health and mental problems than those who don’t forgive. With forgiveness the human ailments of anxiety, depression, and anger decrease, and our self-esteem, hope, and community increase. Choosing forgiveness, rather than conflict, reduces the violence and pain in people’s lives. Forgiveness makes us healthier.
Within the current Australian context and the debate around the spiralling costs of our medical health system, perhaps it is time to examine them within a broader context. If the research is correct, much of the pain and sickness in our community has its roots in broken relationships founded on unforgiveness.
Author Ernest Hemingway told the story of a young man who after a disagreement with his father ran away from home. Deeply upset and hurt the father longed to be reconciled to his only son so he placed an ad in the local newspaper. It read, “Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon Tuesday. All is forgiven. Love, Papa.” When the father arrived at the hotel there was a small crowd of young men all named Paco anxiously waiting for their fathers.
Forgiveness is God’s gift to the world, not only to bring reconciliation between us and God, plus bring reconciliation to our relationships, but to make the world a healthier place. And this is the call of the church. We are God’s example to the world of how good life can be when we live in the fullness of God’s forgiveness for us and our forgiveness of each other. An unforgiving church is toxic and lifeless. A forgiving church is a church full of life and attractive.
“Without forgiveness,” wrote Desmond Tutu, “there’s no future.”
May God grant us forgiving hearts that we may be a healthy, life-giving church.
Stephen L Baxter