We all have heard the saying, “To err is human; to forgive divine.” This saying seems to acknowledge that it takes divine power to forgive. Sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible, to forgive especially when the other party has offended us badly.
During the Apartheid era, a South African woman lost both her son and husband to the senseless atrocities committed by the white police officers. One of them, a Mr. de Broek was standing trial before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He along with others, shot her eighteen-year-old son at point-blank range. Eight years later, Mr. de Broek took her husband, bound and placed him on top of a pile of wood, and then ignited the flames that consumed his body. The last words her husband said were ‘Forgive them.’
Now standing in the Court, she was asked by the panel of judges, what she wanted. She made three requests but her last was the most amazing and superhuman, ‘I would like Mr. de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God and that I forgive him, too. I would like someone to lead me to where he is seated so I can embrace him and he can know my forgiveness is real.” No wonder, as the elderly woman was led across the courtroom, van de Broek fainted. That’s the power of forgiveness.
I come across an article where the writer shared the story of Jane, a mother of three who was dealing with a broken marriage. Jane shared why she did not give up on her husband by using the analogy of flying an airplane with a co-pilot who decides to quit as the plane runs into a storm. She asked, “Do you also give up and end up crashing the entire planeload of people, or do you try your best to land safely first and then sort out the problem with your co-pilot?” Jane is still waiting in faith to lavish her husband with love and forgiveness.
It is easy to talk about forgiveness but how many actually unconditionally forgive?
Psychologist Robert Enright of the University of Wisconsin-Madison explained, “Forgiving does not mean letting the guilty party off the hook, but is letting go hope for a better past to secure an angst-free present. It’s not excusing or forgetting; it’s giving up the resentment that you’re entitled to.” The paradox is that “by giving this gift to the other, it is the gift giver who becomes psychologically healed.” And because it’s such a rare gift, forgiveness has the power to move the recipient to repentance.
Let’s follow our Lord’s example as he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We too should pray, “forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Rev. Mark Tay