The Peacemaker Monthly
The Beauty of Forgiveness
by Cara McLauchlan
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
— Colossians 3:13
I will never forget the day my sister let me drive her brand new red truck. I was sixteen years old and a new driver. She was a high school teacher at her first job out of college and she had just purchased her dream vehicle. The cherry red Nissan truck was unexpected for a young lady to drive—it was sporty, sassy, and fun. It had a great stereo and something that was quite amazing at the time—a sun roof. She passed me the keys to make a quick run to the grocery store and I was thrilled.
The truck had a stick shift and I had practiced many weekends learning to drive on the back country roads in Michigan. However, I was still inexperienced. After the run to the store, I parked in front of our garage and quickly took my foot off the clutch before turning off the car. If you know anything about an automobile with manual transmission, you understand the clutch must be pressed down while you turn off the car or something quite horrible happens. The truck became what felt like a bucking bronco and rammed itself jerkily, crazily into the garage.
Her brand new truck, wrecked. Bashed in garage. Smashed front end. Tears, tears, and more tears. I had just had an accident with a garage. My sister would never forgive me. I had ruined the thing she had saved her money for, her very first dream car, the reward for all those days and nights in college to get her first job. I had made a mess of everything.
I will never forget the way she handled that experience. She immediately took me into her arms and wrapped herself around me. We both cried and then we laughed at how ridiculous it was to have an accident with a garage. I know in her heart she wanted to be angry, but the kind of love she showed me that day was remarkable. She had every reason to be furious, to yell at me, to tell me how stupid and careless I was, to remind me that she had told me that I was never to pop the clutch that way and how I failed. But she didn’t do any of that. She had every right to hold on to her anger, to let me stew for a while, to keep a righteous attitude, and to teach me a lesson by keeping me waiting and wondering if I would ever be forgiven. However, she loved me through my failure and she forgave me immediately in the most loving way I could ever have imagined.
In Ken Sande’s book, “The Peacemaker” he opens chapter ten with a cool shock of truth statement, “Christians are the most forgiven people in the world. Therefore, we should be the most forgiving people in the world” (page 204).
As Chef Emeril would say, “Bam!” I want to believe I am good at forgiving and yet I know I, like most Christians, am flawed with sin. My husband and I have a little joke we use to remind each other of the heart of forgiveness. When one of us starts complaining about bad drivers or criticisms of church leadership, or when someone does something that feels less than loving, we like to say, “Humans! They are just so….human!”
Forgiving one another in our failings is hard, and yet seeking to forgive others the way the Lord forgives us should be our aim. Sande, in his loving way, gives us a vision for what it means to forgive with a Christian heart approach. He reminds us that forgiveness is not a feeling, but an act of will that we must rely on God to help us complete. He reinforces that it is not excusing, but it is a decision we must make to believe the debt has been paid and is now gone forever. Yes that’s right, forever.
“Having never learned the true meaning of forgiveness, many people keep a record of the wrongs of others and bring them up again and again. This pattern destroys their relationships and deprives them of peace and freedom that come through genuine forgiveness” (page 207).
I call this the great emotional librarian—cataloguing other’s mistakes so they can be used at a later date as ammunition in arguments. I have been guilty of being the librarian many times. Genuine forgiveness is something that is given like an unexpected gift and is never brought up again. Sande calls this akin to the Greek word, charizomai.
“Charizomai, another word for ‘forgive,’ means to bestow favor freely or unconditionally. This word shows that forgiveness is undeserved and cannot be earned” (page 207).
My sister never mentioned the “garage crash” incident again. She repaired the truck on her own and never said anything about asking me to pay for it. She could have held it over my head for years, made me pay for a portion of the damages, or reminded me of my stupidity. Even when I bring it up now, years later as an adult, she barely remembers the incident or the significant act of forgiveness she gave that day. She lovingly and completely forgave me and then never said anything again.
In 1 Corinthians 13:15, it says “love keeps no record of wrongs.” My sister lived out this scripture for me that day. There are so many examples of loving forgiveness in the Bible, with the greatest being how our Savior loves us to the point of giving up His life for us. I want to be a 1 Corinthians 13:15 kind of forgiver. When I am tempted to be self-righteous and angry over wrongs, I seek to remember that forgiving is what Christians do. We do it because we are the most forgiven people in the world.
Forgiveness can be one of the most beautiful experiences to give another. You never know what kind of life changing moment you can spark in someone with the simple act of forgiveness, even for teenagers who crash into garages.
Read Along in The Peacemaker
Read Chapter 9 and 10 (pages 185-224)
- Describe a time when you forgave someone even though they didn’t deserve it.
- Can you think of a time when you didn’t forgive someone for their actions? What was that like?
- How do you handle a situation when you find it impossible to forgive someone?
- Have you ever been forgiven in a surprising way? What was that like?
- How do you handle going forward after forgiveness has been given? Do you think about it? Do you find it hard to not bring it up later? Or is it completely forgotten in your mind?
- When you are struggling with forgiveness, what Scripture comes to mind or is a good reminder of how Christ has forgiven?
- How can you change someone’s life through forgiveness?