Time to use the F-word again

The arguing just never seems to stop.

 

On television. On the radio. At public meetings. At family dinners. And of course online, in every way possible.

 

It’s us against them, group vs. group, me against the world.

 

And a lot of the language used can get rather spicy. There’s one word above all…

 

But we’ve been here before. Our friend George Churchgoer goes back four years in the archives to show the message hasn’t changed…

 

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The F word. It’s a word that so many people avoid, won’t say, won’t even think.

 

In some circles it’s a dirty word, not to be used. Wash out your mouth with soap.

 

After all, when’s the last time you used it?

 

The F word...

 

Forgiveness.

 

It just doesn’t fit with our modern society. You’ve heard the old saying – “don’t get mad, get even.”

 

Too many people take that to heart. But to be honest it isn’t something new – people have always felt this way.

 

History has given us plenty of examples where a lack of forgiveness – or an amazing showing of forgiveness – has changed the course of events.

 

Our American Civil War is an example. Four years of terrible bloodshed hardened a lot of hearts. Yet historians believe that President Abraham Lincoln, had he lived, would have been far more forgiving of the rebellious Southern states at war’s end.

 

In fact he said as much in his second inaugural address in March 1865, just weeks before the end of the war. “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” he said. Lincoln was ready to extend the olive branch to the South to recreate the nation and speed the healing.

 

Instead Lincoln was assassinated, many people in the North were furious, and the so-called Reconstruction period was anything but. The sometimes harsh treatment of the South led to decades of animosity which extends to this day. Forgiveness was nowhere to be found.

 

World War I was another example. Four more years of senseless conflict led to over 40 million deaths in countries across Europe and elsewhere.

 

When Germany finally capitulated in late 1918 from sheer exhaustion, the Allied leaders decided to teach them a lesson with crushing sanctions that left Germany nearly destitute. Forgiveness apparently never came into the negotiations.

 

The humiliation and destroyed economy eventually led to a new German leader – Adolf Hitler. And we all know from history what he did.

 

But every now and then a story emerges that shows the true power of forgiveness.

 

In 2006 a crazed man invaded an Amish school in Lancaster County, ordering everyone out of the small building except the girls. The individual shot eight of the girls, with five of them dying that tragic morning, before the shooter killed himself.

 

People were outraged at the random violence. Yet the ones who could have lashed out, and most would have supported them if they had done so, instead did the exact opposite. The Amish community almost immediately forgave the shooter and reached out to support his family.

 

That very same day some Amish consoled the shooter’s family. One report said an Amish man held the perpetrator’s sobbing father in his arms for as long as an hour. They even later setup a financial fund to help support the shooter’s family.

 

Amazing, unbelievable forgiveness. But the actions started much needed healing for both the Amish families affected as well as the perpetrator’s widow and family. Any animosity never had a chance to rise.

 

One Amishman was quoted as saying that day that the shooter was being judged by God, not them. Their faith compelled them to forgive, not judge and hate.

 

Forgiveness isn’t easy. It’s very difficult. Perhaps the old line applies here – if it were easy, everyone would do it.

 

But it’s a central part of our Christian faith. Jesus demonstrated this constantly during His ministry.

 

In Matthew 18, Peter asks Him how many times he should forgive his brother when he sins against him. Seven times, he asks?

 

Depending on your Bible translation, Jesus replied “not seven times, but 77 times.” Or “seventy times seven.” For the math challenged, that’s a whopping 490 times.

 

Whaaaaatttt???

 

But that is our charge. In Matthew 6 Jesus makes it very plain – “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (NIV)

And from the Lord’s Prayer – “and forgive us our sins/trespasses as we forgive those who sin/trespass against us.”

 

Or from the Cross – “forgive them Father, for they know not what they are doing.”

 

Yes, it’s tough. It’s REALLY tough. When we are wronged our human instincts want to grab the person by the throat, or smack them silly, or punch them in the nose. Or worse. That’s what they do in the movies, right?

 

Our popular culture is filled with those scenes. Yet it goes completely against our faith.

 

Ever notice what happens to YOU when you forgive someone?

 

That five hundred pounds of animosity on your shoulders immediately lifts. That weight around your heart starts to disappear. That anguish on your brain begins to clear.

 

The weight of hate can be suffocating. It consumes an individual, eating them from the inside out. No one is born with hate. Hate is a choice.

 

Instead choose the opposite – forgive. The difficulty is short term. The relief lasts far longer.

 

And it begins by simply acknowledging the F word. Then act upon it. This is one F word we all need to embrace.

 

From George Churchgoer