Where does forgiveness start? This is an important question if we’re to get forgiveness right and do forgiveness well.
I think forgiveness starts with God and his nature. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This very act says so much about the God we worship and the forgiveness he calls us into. It reminds us that God is a giver, One who at core seeks to bring life and beauty and joy into being. In the evening of each creation day God said “it is good.” On the sixth day, having created human beings, he said “it is very good”. At a very primary level, we understand that God gives himself, expends himself so that life can abound and people can thrive.
Cornelius Plantinga says “the first act in the world’s drama is God’s act of creation and sustaining ‘all things visible and invisible,’ out of a generous desire to enlarge the realm of being, to bestow life and goodness on others, and to assist others to flourish in the realm created for them.” [Engaging God’s World, p.44]
…forgiveness starts with God and his nature…
This tells us deep things about God: his core disposition is one of love, a desire to bless, to enrich, to cause to flourish, to bring life and beauty. There are a million other implications to pursue here about what the church should focus on, about how Christians should conduct themselves, and what defines the mission of the church.
What I want us to think about are the implications of this for forgiveness. This is very important, because it is easy for us to view forgiveness simply in a pragmatic sense: we want to forgive because it resolves a problem. We do it because it works. That is not bad, but it could be better.
When forgiveness is rooted in the character of God, and defined by his work in creation, we see something else. We wee that forgiveness is about bringing blessing into lives. When we go the full cycle of forgiveness, we don’t just resolve a problem, we bless each other.
That is a challenging thought. You may think of the trouble and grief that is part of your life, and seriously question whether you will ever be able to forgive. You may wonder whether you could ever see your way clear to bless the person or persons that have brought this pain upon you. Sometimes the terrors and evils perpetrated on us are so big and ugly that it seems impossible to contemplate any positive thought toward those who have done them. I agree – but for now, can we agree to leave that tension where it is, and come back to later?
The bottom line is that forgiveness is perhaps the most grace affirming, life enriching work you will ever do. It’s no wonder that if we’re going to do it well, we’ll need the sort of grace and strength and help that we can only get from Jesus.
Can you see forgiveness as ultimately a desire to see the other blessed? How does this challenge you or comfort you?
Dave – Thanks for the post. Very thought provoking and challenging.
Hi Dave, good thoughts and an interesting lead into the topic – thanks. Is it relevant to say that without sin or before sin there was no need of forgiveness? Perhaps forgiveness started with the fall?
Geoff, I certainly think forgiveness started with the fall – before the fall there would not have been any reason to forgive. The reality is, though, that God’s post fall ‘forgiveness’ has its root in his pre fall ‘giveness’ – that core aspect of God’s character whereby he wants to see his creation enriched and people thrive. Because this ‘giveness’ is so rooted in the character of God, when humanity rebelled and fell, God then desired to forgive.
Thanks Dave. So true!!
Thanks for the reply, Dave – agree with all your comments. What an amazing God and Father we have who has given us so much in Jesus Christ and endowed on us His promises for life – we would have to agree that God is perfect in every one of the facets of His character.
You raise another salient point in the first post which I’m interested to explore – When we go the full cycle of forgiveness, we don’t just resolve a problem, we bless each other. – that has to be a huge challenge for us to embrace in our lives. The ‘how to’ of blessing those who injure either us or those close to us is possibly a most vital thing for every person to find out about and practice in daily life. Look forward to your comments.
Wow Dave I had never come across the concept of God’s “giveness” before! And Geoff your last comment is spot on. Hurry up Dave and post the next part! (please 🙂
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