Ken Alvis, Associate Pastor of Community Groups & Assimilation
August 26, 2014
As believers we strive to be “like Christ.” One characteristic of becoming more like Christ is exhibiting forgiveness. Christians forgive because they have been forgiven. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, explained why we are to forgive when he said, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). So what is forgiveness? It’s basically a promise that you make to three different individuals.
First, it’s a promise that you make to the individual who has offended you and now has repented. And the promise is that you will not let your attitude toward the person be governed by this offense. In effect, it has been put aside, never to be brought up again. Many couples have problems for years because one or the other spouse goes back and digs up the past, kind of like pulling off a scab. Sound familiar?
Second, it’s a promise not to pass it on to somebody else. When something is forgiven, it is to be forgotten. So nobody brings up the issue again, or holds it over a person’s head, or reminds him or her of it whenever the mood strikes. Forgiveness is a promise to “drop it” and leave it in the past.
Third, it’s a promise to yourself that when your memory goes back to it (and it will!), you don’t allow it to control your heart and make you angry again. Instead, you put it aside as something from the past and don’t dwell on it. You promise to repeat the act of forgiveness, no matter how often the memory comes up.
Louis Zamperini exemplified forgiveness. He passed away on July 2 at the age of 97. Louie was a track star who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. During World War II Louie enlisted and was part of a B-24 bomber crew that crashed in the Pacific Ocean. Louie survived the crash but then spent 47 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean with no food or drink, and constantly battled sharks. He finally found land but was captured by the Japanese, placed in a concentration camp, and was continually tortured for almost two years by his guards.
When the war ended Louie was freed and returned to the USA as a hero. But memories of his torture overwhelmed him. He drank heavily, had nightmares and struggled in his marriage. Finally, Louie attended a Billy Graham crusade and heard a message of forgiveness…and Jesus. Louie said, “It was the first night in two and a half years that I didn’t have a nightmare. The forgiveness was the complete healing factor in my life.” The rest of his life was dedicated to forgiveness. It included going to meet many of the prison guards who tortured him. Louie summed it up this way: “The most important thing of my Christian life was to know that I not only forgave them verbally, but to see them face to face and tell them that I forgave them.”
May we all strive to be more like Christ by actively forgiving others just as our beloved Lord forgave us!