In the very last talk Al Stewart gave to the City Bible Forum a few weeks ago, we look at Luke 17:1-10, the passage on forgiveness. He started with an interview between Andrew Denton and Mark Latham on how Latham felt he has been wronged by Gough Whitlam. When Denton asked about his future relationship with Whitlam, Latham responded with two possible options:

  1. Pretend it has never happened, or
  2. Break up the relationship

And he has personally expressed that he could not take the first option. However, Al argued that it is possible to have a third option -- to forgive the offender, especially it should be something that Christians should take. To summarise from the passage,

  • We need to forgive our brothers if they repent.
  • We have been forgiven as the ultimate motivation for us to forgive.
  • To forgive is our duty and it should not be something that we should be proud of.

Personally I found forgiveness is something that is extremely difficult for even the Christians to do. You have been wronged (or sometimes, you felt that you have been wronged), it is just hard to take that mental penalty upon ourselves by accepting apology from the offending party. Something that many of us, myself especially, need to work on.

Al normally leaves a few minutes for questions, and the question time was excellent on that day, as many people have asked the questions that I was likely to ask as well. Two interesting questions on forgiveness were raised -- (1) how can we sure that the other party has really repented? (2) should we forgive, if the other party does not repent and apologise?

These are pretty much the same questions which someone has previously asked me as well during the Colossians Bible study at MBF a few weeks ago. We looked at chapter 3, where Christians were called to put on godly living and put off the old self. I shared that I myself needed to learn to give up rights and forgive. Then the discussion broke out as someone else in my group shared that how difficult it is for her to forgive -- especially over the things she has gone through, and the other party has shown little sign of apology. Should she continue to forgive and continue to do what is right?

I guess in our hearts we do not really want to forgive. The reason that we want to see hard evidence of another party repenting shows that we do not really want to leave room for them so that the relationship can be restored again. But Al argued that since Christ has already done the reconciliation, shouldn't we then do our best to lower the bar to make their apology easy? Instead of making it is difficult for them to say sorry?

Even if the other party never asks for forgiveness, we'll leave the judgement to God. Also from Colossians 3:17, where the reason we submit to each other is for the sake of Jesus' name. That along should be our motivation to forgive.

But then that is going to cost -- the cost on the person who is willing to forgive and actively seek restoration of the relationship. That is probably the part that most of us find difficult to swallow. It isn't my fault, then why is it my responsibility to sew the relationship back together? Again, like Matthew 18 has suggested, Christ is our example. It wasn't his fault either, that we rejected God and try to run lives our own way. But then it costs Jesus his life to get us right with God...

Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Something that I need to be reminded for 2006.

There needs to be lots of forgiveness at church as well. Especially this year -- there are just smells of bad blood. Sometimes I wondered, why oh why, that people do these things to each other. I will probably be furious and unwilling to compromise, and ended up have the same foul taste in my mouth.

Yup. Need to "forgive" and "pray".