Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus is the effort to forgive others.
In a tit for tat world, where you hit me and I hit you back harder begins a vicious cycle of making life a living hell. This vicious boxing match is far from the heart of God.
Certainly we will be hurt by others. Certainly there will be many times we will hurt others by our words, deeds and attitudes. But to keep the hurt escalating, certainly not. Our example is Jesus.
Jesus chose to absorb the blows and offer forgiveness. By his actions he communicated clearly that the wounds stop now. They stop here.
Now it is our turn. Forgiveness means letting go of the desire to get even.
Don Henley knew it to be true. In his song "The Heart of the Matter" he makes the point that forgiveness is a matter of the heart.
"I'm learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand,
All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again
I've been tryin' to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore"
He goes on.
"There are people in your life
Who've come and gone
They let you down
You know they hurt your pride
You better put it all behind you baby
'Cause life goes on
You keep carryin' that anger
It'll eat you up inside baby"
We are all people in process. For those of us who know Christ, it is a part of the salvation we receive by grace. We are all evolving. We are all learning.
Michael Dowd in his book Thank God for Evolution makes the point poignantly.
"What we call salvation like 'sin' is an undeniable part of the human experience. To know the joy of reconciling when I've been estranged, to experience the relief of confession when I've been burdened by guilt, to taste the freedom of forgiveness when I've been enslaved by my resentment; to feel passion and energy when I've been forlorn, to once again see clearly when I've been self-deceived, to find comfort when I've been grieving, to dance again when I've been paralyzed by fear; to sing when I've been short on hope; to let go when I have been attacked, to embrace truth when I've been in denial; to find guidance when I've been floundering - each of these is the precious face of salvation."
As Desmond Tutu reminds us "there is no future without forgiveness".