Back in 1994 I was working for Tearfund, a Christian Relief agency, and oversaw their response to the Rwandan genocide. During visits to that troubled country I met many people whose lives had been devastated by the violence of April 1994. Time and again I heard the same message: “Don’t say to me ‘Forgive and forget’: in time we shall try to forgive, but we will never
This response must surely be right. The temptation is to
misunderstand and belittle forgiveness as a glossing-over of what has happened and a pretence that it doesn’t matter.
Wrong-doing, in whatever form, always matters – if it didn’t matter then Jesus’ death would have been pointless. True
forgiveness is much harder and goes much deeper for it
recognises the wrong and the consequences that flow from it and yet still says “I am prepared to give you another chance”. That is always costly. When the wrong has involved a betrayal of trust it can be really hard, but it is based on an understanding that we all mess up from time to time and we all need another chance to do better in the future. If we had to live with the
burden of our failures then life would be intolerable. On the cross Jesus looked squarely at our mess-ups and wrongs and dealt with the eternal consequences so that we might be set free from that burden and have another chance. And he did it for each and every one of us, whether or not we have yet come to realise that.
We all value our freedom greatly. Forgiveness is a critical part of freedom, for not only does it set the wrongdoer free to start again and do better next time, it also frees the person wronged from having to carry the bitterness of betrayal for the rest of their life. It is my belief that this is one of the most important values we can learn to enable us to realise our true potential.