Some years ago we received a business card in the mail from a car salesman looking for business. I recognised the unusual name on the card and remembered that he and my father had once been friends. They had parted in bad company because my father had lent him a significant amount of money and it had never been paid back. It had been thirty years since they had last spoken.
I rang my mother to ask her whether she thought Dad might like to make contact again. Dad rang his number and they renewed their friendship. It seems that the relationship was more important than the money.
Debts forgiven, relationships restored and grace experienced: these are the themes of Christian reconciliation.
Sometimes in the scripture forgiveness seems to be paired with other words—repentance and forgiveness, forgive us as we forgive others—making it sound conditional.
Amazingly, God’s grace is sometimes at work even when there is no repentance, even when we have not adequately forgiven others for the hurt that we have experienced.
Extending forgiveness sets free both the forgiven one and the one who offers forgiveness. It provides a chance to move forward rather than being held to a past circumstance.
Nevertheless, sometimes it is prudent to forgive but not forget, in order to protect the vulnerable ones, to provide space for the broken ones and to establish clear boundaries for perpetrators. Where there has been abuse, forgiveness might also require truth telling and restitution.
I have had a fortunate, sheltered life. I cannot imagine how much pain is felt by some families. Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian gynaecologist, spent years working in an Israeli hospital when his home in Gaza was bombed on 16 January 2009. His three daughters and a niece were killed in the bombing. I heard him interviewed on the radio at about the time he published his book, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. His story is inspirational because of his decision to forgive rather than hate and to continue to practice medicine in an Israeli hospital.
Hurt, pain and disappointment are inevitable in life. Knowing that Jesus has forgiven me and that I can forgive others provides us with a response to hurt, pain, disappointment and tragedy that enables us to find our way to a future of fresh possibilities.
Rev Kaye Ronalds
Queensland Synod Moderator