The following is from a young man that God placed in my life a few years ago. As I have had the time to get to know him more, I have learned very valuable lessons from him. Jonathan Low, I am very thankful for our friendship. I cannot wait to see what you do in this world for God’s Kingdom. You, my brother, are a warrior. -Jason
The Art of Forgiveness
I intend to provide commentary and encouragement in this piece for both non-believers and believers in Christ Jesus on the topic of forgiveness. I believe everything we go through in life, good and bad, possesses an underlying reason which we might not understand at that concurrent moment and time. For the bad, however, I trust that mastering the art of forgiveness is essential to maintaining the witness you have for those who do not know God. I hope to show you the truth behind this by sharing my personal experience that has led me to where I am today in my faith supported by scripture from the Holy Bible.
In my opinion, the biggest mistake I have made as a believer is assuming when forgiveness is discussed in the Bible, it is aimed at the person asking for forgiveness, not the person doing the forgiving. In Matthew 18:21 (KJV), Simon Peter, one of the twelve disciples hand-picked by Jesus, asks Jesus a question on the topic of forgiveness. He asks Him how many times should he forgive someone after he has been offended by them. Jesus’ response was clever and perceptive, as all His replies were to controversial, provocative questions. He explains to Peter that he should forgive that person “seventy times seven” times. Of course, being born with an innate sense of analytical reasoning I did the math years ago when I first read this passage and just in case you didn’t know, that’s 490 times. Jesus then goes on to provide further insight on his response by sharing a parable based on forgiveness (Matthew 18:23 – 35, KJV). This parable provides depth and sheds light on Jesus’ initial response to Peter. The relationship between the compassionate king and the remorseless servant who refused to forgive his fellowservant’s debt, reflects our relationship with God. We owe Him everything up to our very own lives. However, when we fail through our disobedience, His grace is always there ready and willing to catch us. In Mark 11:25 we can see again how God wanted to frame this relationship with His creation. Jesus instructs his disciples to forgive if they have a grudge against anyone. What stands out to me here is how He gives this instruction and does not talk about the transgressor asking for forgiveness. This leads me to believe that in this verse Jesus is focusing particularly on the forgiver which is His father in heaven and His creation whenever we are offended by one another.
So, if God is willing to forgive us for our most heinous deeds and mischievous acts, should we not be always ready and willing do the same for those who transgress against us? Granted, it is easier said than done. Growing up, a highlight of my childhood involved always hearing the phrase “Say you’re sorry” or “Go apologize” after I had done something wrong or if I had disrespected someone. I used to believe that was the hardest thing in the world to do. Owning up to your mistakes is difficult at times, but throughout my life I have found it more difficult to be sincere in forgiving someone who has intentionally wronged me. For this, I speak from experience. I held a grudge that lasted for years for something done to me I deemed unforgivable and the only person I was hurting all the while was myself.
Last semester in the spring I shared my testimony with a journalist from Anderson South Carolina’s Independent Mail. I explained to her the struggles I had to endure and overcome as a child and adolescent. Being raised in a Hispanic household, we always had family that came and went living with us from time to time. My brother, however, was a constant in my life that I actively relied on. He always looked out for me and protected me whenever he needed to. But when he joined the military and moved away, that protection left with him. For a long time, my anger was directed towards God. Questions would sit at the back of my mind lingering every day for years after I came to the realization of what transpired when I was home alone with that baby sitter, “Why did you let this happen to me”, “How am I supposed to let this go?”. That anger festered inside of me. But when the moment came for me to take revenge, the child in me refused to pull the trigger. I still cannot come to terms with myself why I did not follow through with the act. I thank God, however, for keeping me and for allowing me to have a chance to forgive them for what they did to me. Although learning to truly let go of my hate and anger towards my transgressor was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life so far, I would no longer call what I had to go through unfortunate. I now believe that it has allowed me to master the art of forgiveness.
– Jonathan Low