Why Should I Forgive?

Why Should I Forgive?

Forgiving is hard. Jesus wouldn't lead us to do this just because he wanted us to be miserable. If Jesus calls us to do something hard, it's because it is the path to something better - the path to a fuller life

Forgiving people who have wronged or harmed you or a loved one is difficult, but life giving.

Let's look at the reasons why you should forgive someone who harms you.

35@35 #23: Criticism

ask-for-criticismTC's guidelines and principles of life #23: "When you criticize, you may be getting in the way of the Holy Spirit working in that person." As a pastor, I am never critical of any human being on the planet. Ever.

...but I know a guy named "CT" who can totally be critical of people. All the time. He's a terrible person.

See, what CT does (the terrible guy, totally not me) is he thinks he has the right to tell people the right and wrong way to do stuff.

What he keeps forgetting a couple things.

Here's what he forgets:

1. We can only keep people accountable to the level of relationship with them.

If I don't know you, I can't care about you more than just a general 'I love you as a person' or 'I love you as a fellow believer in Christ' kind of way. Until you know that I care about you as a person, you have no idea whether I have your best interest at heart when I start doling out 'advice'.

And CT has no idea what would help you grow closer to Jesus without having a relationship with you. Trying to keep people accountable cannot outstrip your personal relationship, because that's just being controlling, in a blind and ignorant way.

2. We can't keep somebody accountable without knowing their story.

What right do I...I mean does CT have to tell somebody what they should do if he doesn't even know their story? C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, talks about how foolish it is to judge people on the same set of rules. He talks about the principle that for me not to get high on heroin is not overly commendable, because I don't any kind of addiction or attraction toward that drug. But for somebody who spent years of their life getting high off it, not getting high is a huge deal, and God must be incredibly proud of them for their willingness to fight such a huge battle. Or if they got high once this week instead of 4 times, that would be awesome. Yet CT, in his foolishness, may think he has a right to say 'tsk, tsk' to the person who got high once instead of four times.

So when I start telling somebody what they should and shouldn't do without knowing their life story, I'm doing it out of a place of ignorance and uncaring. God interacts with us out of full knowledge and full love.

I want to be crazy enough to love people, and believe that the Holy Spirit can show people what God wants for them.

Jesus didn't generally around scolding or threatening people whose lives were a mess. He basically showed them what they were missing out on and invited them to stop missing out on it.

Do you know how many times Peter screwed up? And yet, at the end, Jesus is calling Peter to spread God's good news and care for his followers.

If Jesus is more interested in restoring and giving grace to Peter, maybe I should look for opportunities to do the same.

Even Paul, who can have a hard edge to his leadership at times says in Galatians 6:1 "if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path."

If we're to be gentle and humble with believers, who should know better, how loving should we be for those who have not even committed to following Jesus yet?

At no point should we fail to speak the truth in love, but speaking the truth without love (which is what criticism is) is perhaps worse still that just staying quiet.

So I'm going to go back to CT and gently and humbly suggest that we point people to Jesus without presuming to know what everybody else should do in every situation.

I hope he listens, but I guess I'll just have to trust that the Holy Spirit can work in his life.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.


I watched season 2 of a show called Justified on DVD this past week. The show is anchored in powerful, well crafted story telling. It does have a fair bit of violence and language in it - so choose whether to watch it accordingly. (At one point in my life, I would not have watched a show with such material, or I at least would have felt guilty for it, but I’m in a different place now. Not more or less holy/sanctified, just different.)

Without giving spoilers, season two ends on a climax that deals with revenge. One character is pointing a gun at another character, debating whether they should pull the trigger as payback for certain actions.

In the dialogue of the scene, a third character is asking that the trigger not be pulled. This character tells the gun-holder “If you pull that trigger, your life is going to change forever…and not for the better.”

The thing about revenge is that, not only does it not heal a wound, it creates new ones: guilt over what you’ve done, and the injury to the other person.

If that person, or their family members decide to take revenge for what you did, you’re in a never ending cycle, perpetuating hurt and hate.

I started thinking about this in the context of what I read in a book written by Bishop Desmond Tutu called “No Future Without Forgiveness”. South Africa, divided and full of rage over the years of apartheid, where a white minority systematically oppressed a black majority, was attempting to enter into peaceful cohabitation. Many feared that the blacks would slaughter the whites in vengance.

But something alltogether different occured: The government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whereby crimes and attrocities on both sides (there were blacks who fought back with violence - and in war, terrible things always occur) could confess what they had done and avoid judicial punishment.

That’s right: if you said what you did, truthfully and completely, you were not held liable. People got to hear the facts about the death of their loved ones - how they died, who killed them, where the bodies were located, etc. Amazingly, this lead to a great deal of forgiveness.

People were tired of bloodshed. Most yearned for peace. Instead of dealing with skeletons in the closet and trying to pretend that they don’t exist, South Africa laid them to rest.

By ending the cycle of revenge, hurts could begin to heal. South Africa is far from perfect, but they have never descended into the genocidal civil war many expected.

Jesus said that loving people who love you back is easy. (Matthew 5:46)

The Children of God are called to love the wicked.  What a war we are called to fight when our weapons are love, mercy and grace.

You may think this is a great way to lose, but I look at leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., who used patience and endurance to defeat tyrannical forces.

In Romans 12:19, Paul even says not to take revenge. That’s a job best left up to God. He knows when it’s appropriate and when it isn’t. Our job is to love, not settle scores.