Beyond race relations: Forgive one another

Ephesians 4_32

The blog post for July 23, 2016 is a continuation of the series based on the concept “It’s all about relationships,” the theme from a conference attended three years ago that related seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.” These principles can be universally applied in achieving and maintaining successful relationships, but they can also be specifically applied in race relations, a critically important area in America today.

These seven principles are related to verbs that connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.” The reciprocal pronoun used in the plural carries the notion of a group of people acting upon themselves, i.e., upon one another. For example, we are to “love another and so forth. . .”

1) Love

2) Honor

3)  Forgive

4)  Encourage

5)  Admonish

6)  Serve

7)  Make peace

Earlier posts have discussed the first two principles, and today we will talk about the third:

Forgive one another

The Verse of the Day posted on June 26, 2016 centered on Leviticus 18:19 (AMP):

You shall not take revenge nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor (acquaintance, associate, companion) as yourself; I am the Lord.

The expression to “not take revenge nor bear any grudge” is “to forgive,” and most remarkably, June 26 is National Forgiveness Day, a designated time to forgive and be forgiven. In some sense every day could be seen as Forgiveness Day, not only in America but across the globe. Some of the following comments are extracted and expanded from that blog entry:

Forgiveness, a vitally important concept in Christianity, is described as a two-way street. This virtue is eloquently expressed in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. . . .” The subject is connected to some of the last words that Jesus Christ, who was also brutally slain, as he spoke before his death on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

In addition, Paul also exhorts believers to “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Dr. Arch Hart, Christian psychologist, offers a definition of forgiveness that seems to be particularly applicable in the situations with where one individual has hurt another in some way: “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.”

James E. Hurst cites Dr. Sidney Simon who offers this definition of this critical concept:

“Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”

Dr. Robert D. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute and pioneer researcher with the first scientifically proven forgiveness program in the country, has developed Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. This study guide demonstrates how forgiveness, when approached in the correct manner, benefits the forgiver far more than the forgiven, indicating that forgiveness can reduce anxiety and depression while increasing self-esteem and hopefulness toward one’s future. The title of Dr. Enright’s workbook also brings to mind this poem:

We Choose to Forgive

 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted,

forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)

 

 

We choose to forgive and to release from payment,

To clear the account and forego the debt once more.

Though rightfully owed to us, we choose to forgive,

To be gracious, in spite of the ingratitude.

Our desire is to be kind and tenderhearted;

Even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us,

We rise to the occasion of the Word of God.

Not keeping a record of any wrongs suffered,

We seek to walk in the footsteps of the Savior.

As Joseph, in compassion, assured his brothers

What Satan meant for evil, God fashions for good,

Widen our vision to see a much more grand scope:

May we also see all things working together

For the good, even in perilous times as these.

More than a year ago on June 17, 2015, a series of horrific events occurred in Charleston, SC, where Dylann Roof, seemingly mild-manner young White man,  sat in on a midweek Bible study for an hour before opening fire in a brutal attack that left nine dead at historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. When Roof appeared in court on the following Friday facing nine counts of murder, many of the family members of those slain stated, “I forgive you.”

The response to the events in Charleston has served as a glorious demonstration of the power of forgiveness in an interracial context. Throughout the nation we find similar situations where Caucasians have inflicted injury, even death, on African Americans and where African Americans have retaliated in attacking those of another ethnicity who injured them. Without question, race relations are strained, to say the least, but we recognize that to overcome such enmity a spirit of forgiveness must prevail. Christians must set the example and lead the way in responding to the Biblical command:

To forgive, release from payment, to do a favor,

Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do,

Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.

Matthew West, popular Christian singer, tells the story behind one of the songs that he wrote “Forgiveness”:

Listen to the complete recording of “Forgiveness”

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