Forgiveness is something that I struggle with. How often have I told myself that I forgive someone only to let resentment creep into my heart the next time I see that person? How can we learn to truly forgive?
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Matthew 18, 21-22
Jesus provides the best example as he forgives those who hand him over, those who condemn him, those who torture him, those who crucify him, and ultimately anyone who is willing to accept his forgiveness. But Jesus is the God-man. He can truly forgive, but we can't expect ourselves or others to live up to that standard, right?
I was reminded this week that there are extraordinary examples of true forgiveness in our modern world. At the TAL benefit dinner a couple of nights ago, Gianna Jessen spoke of forgiving her mother that tried to abort her. Gianna's genuine testimony shows that through God's grace, she has truly forgiven her mother.
I was also reminded when I happened on this article about a documentary called As We Forgive that depicts the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide that occurred fifteen years ago.
In the uneasy peace that followed, over 100,000 suspects awaited trial, taxing both the Rwandan courts’ schedules and the country’s prison capacity. After ten years, only 10,000 cases had been tried. At that rate, it would take a century to get through them all. So Pres. Paul Kagame took an unusual step: He began to release prisoners who were willing to confess their crimes. So far, about 60,000 suspects have been released.
Imagine that your spouse, your mother, or your child was savagely murdered by your neighbors. And now they can walk free. How do you forgive them?
More from the article:
Rosario calmly, even peacefully, tells us that the attackers killed her husband and their four children. She shows a wide, ragged scar on her back, and a blackened puncture on her leg, saying, “This is where they stabbed me with a knife.” A few months after the slaughter, Rosario gave birth to a daughter, a wide-eyed, beautiful girl. She named her Cadeau, “gift.”
Interestingly, the documentary also provides a glimpse into the other side:
John was a neighbor of Chantale’s father. “At one point, he was going to give a cow to my in-laws. We used to drink beer together,” he says. John was part of a gang that dragged him to a crossroads and beat him to death with clubs and machetes. “After killing I felt like an animal. Killing a human being is terrible.” He is afraid of meeting Chantale again. “This is my deepest fear. . . . I’m so deeply ashamed.
But true forgiveness is possible.
Thus we see Rosario reading her Bible. “How can I refuse to forgive when I’m a forgiven sinner too? . . . I did not create this man. Even my family that he killed — I did not create them either. His crime was against God, who created the people that he killed. So I placed everything in the hands of God.”