I’ve been debating for a while about whether or not I wanted to do this forgiveness challenge – obviously I finally decided to go for it. Back in my seminary days, I read a great book about giving and forgiving, by Miroslav Volf, titled Free of Charge. It challenged me to think about how God freely, repeatedly gives grace. He forgives us, over and over, and this is central to telling the story of Jesus. God forgives; he is a giving, loving God. Forgiveness is central to being a follower of Jesus, as we see in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples (Matt. 6:12-14).
Forgive us for doing wrong,
as we forgive others.
13 Keep us from being tempted
and protect us from evil.
14 If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you.”
Then there is the history of South Africa, where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu showed the whole world the power of forgiveness and reconciliation in pulling a country back from the brink of civil war. I don’t usually sit down and read history books, but Mandela’s autobiography and some of Tutu’s works are on my bookshelf!
Forgiveness is powerful…but not easy or simple! It’s often misunderstood. It doesn’t mean saying that something wrong doesn’t matter, for one. Nor does it mean forgetting. And it is also unfortunately easy, at least for introverted thinkers like myself, to keep thinking of hurtful words, to find yourself holding onto a painful memory for no reason, turning the memory or the words over and over in your head until it seems to be stuck on “repeat.” No, forgiveness isn’t easy. Speaking of letting go, I find myself reflecting on an incident from 2011, where I did something rather silly, and am still kicking myself (mentally) for it. I’m good at holding on, and it’s not something I’m proud of. I don’t want to be a person who holds onto pain, a person warped by bitterness.
So I’ve joined the Forgiveness Challenge created by Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu. I don’t have anyone specific in mind at present; I just know that this is an area where I need to grow, if I’m to be a grace-giver, a better representative of Jesus. If you’d like to join me, click on the link above, and feel free to let me know, if you want to discuss it. It’s set up as a 30-day challenge, but I’m going to be taking it slower, and doing one challenge every few days. Regardless of whether or not you actually sign up for the Forgiveness Challenge, I’d challenge you to ask God to show you more about forgiveness and letting go of specifics hurts in your life. The good news? God wants to transform us, make us more like him; with his Spirit in us, actual change is possible. Wonderful news!