Part 1 here
Part 2 here
So we are created to give. We will never be fully human until we become givers. We give to our houses of worship, the poor, organizations that excite our calling, we volunteer our time, we involuntarily give of our time in both the "now" and the "not yet" which leads us to be givers of grace in a graceless world and this leads us to being sources of forgiveness. But there are many ways to define forgiveness. I like Frederick Beuchner's definition:
To forgive somebody is to say one way or another, 'You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you've done, and though we both may carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend.'
To accept forgiveness means to admit that you've done something unspeakable that needs to be forgiven, and thus both parties must swallow the same thing: their pride.
This seems to explain what Jesus means when he says to God, 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.' Jesus is NOT saying that God's forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others. In the first place, forgiveness that's conditional isn't really forgiveness at all, just Fair Warning; and in the second place, our unforgivingness is among those things about us which we need to have God forgive us the most. What Jesus is apparently saying is that the pride which keeps us from forgiving is the same pride which keeps us from accepting forgiveness, and will God please help us do something about it.
When someone you've wronged forgives you, you're spared the dull self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience.
When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you're spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride.
For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each other's presence.
HERE'S THE KICKER: YOU CAN FORGIVE PREEMPTIVELY
After all, Christ died for your forgiveness 2000 years ago. You were forgiven before you existed (again repentance / accepting forgiveness is another matter). There is no reason we cannot forgive others in advance of their sinning against us.
Let me clue you in on something: Between now and the end of the year someone is going to hurt you. But you don't have to wait to be hurt to forgive. In fact, preemptive forgiveness is like the ounce of prevention that is better than a pound of cure. Preemptive forgiveness is easier and it lessons the eventual pain that is coming.
Here is what it looks like: As I head into a situation involving others, I pray, "For what you are about to do or say to me, I forgive you."
"I forgive you"
"I forgive you"
We are created to give. We are created to extend grace. We are created to forgive. When we don't give, we don't extend grace and we don't extend forgiveness, we lose an essential part of our humanity.
So give yourself the gift of further wholeness this Christmas - forgive. Now. Before someone harms you. Before it's too late.
As I am learning, this lesson of preemptive forgiveness is crucial in the disabled community.
One last thought to come . . . .