Forgiveness: What the World Needs Now

May 4, 2022

“What the World Needs Now is Love” is an old song written by Hal Davis and released by Jackie De Shannon in 1965. Certainly the war in Eastern Europe is just one example that our planet needs as much love as possible. One of the best expressions of love is forgiveness. There is no challenge in loving someone who loves and supports you. Also, it is easy to love nice people because they deserve it. However what about less than nice people or people who have deliberately hurt you? Do these people also deserve love? I believe the immediate response from most is that people who do not behave in accordance with the norms of acceptable conduct should be punished and held accountable for their actions. Many times we have heard in the news especially now as it pertains to victims of racial injustice or excessive use of force, the family of the victims will have closure when justice is served appropriately. It takes time to heal many of these types of injustices but the act of forgiveness releases one from being bound to a particular outcome. Justice under the law and forgiveness do not have to be mutually exclusive. Both can co-exist together. Jesus gives us a good example of this. When a crowd of people gathered to stone a woman accused of being an adulteress, they told Jesus that according to the Law of Moses such a woman should be stoned to death. In this situation, Jesus does not invalidate the Law of Moses but instead addresses the crowd by saying let the one among you who is without sin, cast the first stone. Of course no one could cast a stone because everyone has sinned at some point in time. Jesus also does not place any rank on sin as one type of act being more serious than another: theft, murder, lying or adultery. Without judgment, Jesus says the one among you without sin. Jesus has such wisdom and compassion. He knows none of us is perfect. We are not always as strong as we should be. We make mistakes. Since this is true of everyone, do we have the right to judge other people? It is interesting here that the one person, Jesus, who was without sin and capable of judging the woman chooses not to. Rather he tells the woman to go and sin no more. Allow the law to deal with perpetrators of injustice. Whereas we may not be able to forgive evil acts, we can forgive each other even when we are not at our best.

I believe the ultimate test of our willingness to practice forgiveness is when we have been directly hurt by someone else, even more so when the act is deliberate like ridicule or even worse, physical violence. Recovery from this kind of trauma can be long term and may involve physical therapy or counseling. The pain and process of rebuilding one’s life is so long term, the idea of forgiving the one responsible for this suffering would be the least thing to consider. Again the life of Jesus gives us another example of forgiveness when we are enduring the worst suffering at the hands of another person. After enduring horrendous suffering at the hands of the Romans, before Jesus dies on the cross he says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” It would be extremely difficult for a parent to forgive anyone who had murdered their child. Why would anyone who places no value on human life deserve forgiveness? Even with the war in Ukraine today, we could ask this same question. Jesus demonstrates that LOVE expressed through forgiveness is bigger and more powerful than any form of evil that exists, even murder. For each one of us perhaps our capacity to LOVE is not that big but like anything else in our lives we want to develop, it is certainly something we can improve upon. In my own life I have endured tremendous suffering from others for which I have offered forgiveness. I also have made mistakes in my life that may have a negative impact on others. It is my hope that I too may be forgiven.

Michael W. Jackson