May 23 , 2005
The value of mending a broken relationship with a person that I see and relate with on a regular basis is easy to understand. Forgiveness between us and a close friend or colleague gives a kind of instant gratification because it paves the path toward a rejuvenated relationship.
But what inherent value is there in forgiveness as we engage with strangers -- someone whom we hardly know and with whom we may never even encounter again?
In this, we must be aware that the one who asks for forgiveness is the one who is caged. It is the one who has been wronged that is in control, and in fact tightens the chains of the offender as forgiveness is withheld. In Scripture, the Lord continually reminds the Israelites that they were once slaves and were set free by His gracious act. And as those who are created by God to be a light to the nations, part of our duty is to administer this same freedom. Thus, the act of forgiving a stranger is fundamentally a divine act that demonstrates God's great love for the world. And if we who call ourselves Christians choose to judge those enslaved to the world rather than choosing forgiveness, then rather setting them free, we keep them in the very chains which God has commissioned us to proclaim freedom from. And if the stranger is someone we may never see again, we have only that small window of opportunity to offer or ask for that forgiveness.
In short, there is much more to the nature of forgiveness than simply the immediate sigh of relief that comes after forgiveness has been offered and administered. Forgiveness is a ministry, one that is patterned after the great forgiveness offered to each of us through the cross. And lest we forget -- we were all strangers to God at one time, but now through His great forgiveness, are considered His friends.