Love and Forgiveness go hand-in-hand.
For many of us, we bounce through life in search of Love and never give thought to Forgiveness. Just as Love and Forgiveness are gifts that only the Lover can give, and one doesn’t come without the other, so too are these gifts that we must learn to give. All too often the power and the presence of the Lover go unnoticed because of unforgiveness. Only within a relationship of love are we able to trust; when we can trust, we then are able to depend on the Lover.
Below is a passage from a powerful book that speaks to this more eloquently than I can ever pen, for it is a discipline and a principle I am still learning. The passage begins on page 226 and ends on page 230 of the book, The Shack, by William P. Young.
~~~~~—–~~~~~~Again Papa stopped and put down his pack, reaching inside for water. “We are almost there, child,” he stated, handing Mack the canteen. “We are?” Mack inquired, looking again at the lonely and desolate rock field that lay ahead of them. “Yes!” It was all Papa offered, and Mack wasn’t sure he wanted to ask where exactly they almost were. Papa chose a small boulder near the path and, placing his pack and shovel next to it, sat down. He appeared troubled. “I want to show you something that is going to be very painful for you.” “Okay?” Mack’s stomach started to churn as he put down his pick and swung Sarayu’s gift across his lap as he sat down. The aromas, heightened by the morning sun, filled his senses with beauty and brought a measure of peace. “What is it?” “To help you see it, I want to take away one more thing that darkens your heart.” Mack knew immediately what it was and, turning his gaze away from Papa, started boring a hole with his eyes into the ground between his feet. Papa spoke gently and reassuringly. “Son, this is not about shaming you. I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation. They don’t produce one speck of wholeness or righteousness, and that is why they were nailed into Jesus on the cross.” He waited, allowing the thought to penetrate and wash away some of Mack’s sense of shame before continuing. “Today we are on a healing trail to bring closure to this part of your journey–not just for you, but for others as well. Today, we are throwing a big rock into the lake and those ripples will reach places you would not expect. You already know what I want, don’t you?” “I’m afraid I do,” Mack mumbled, feeling emotions rising as they seeped out of a locked room in his heart. “Son, you need to speak it, to name it.” Now there was no holding back as hot tears poured down his face and between sobs Mack began to confess. “Papa,” he cried, “how can I ever forgive that son of a bitch who killed my Missy. If he were here today, I don’t know what I would do. I know it isn’t right, but I want him to hurt like me … if I can’t get justice, I still want revenge.” Papa simply let the torrent rush out of Mack, waiting for the wave to pass. “Mack, for you to forgive this man is for you to release him to me and allow me to redeem him.” “Redeem him?” Again Mack felt the fire of anger and hurt. “I don’t want you to redeem him! I want you to hurt him, to punish him, to put him in hell … ” His voice trailed off. Papa waited patiently for the emotions to ease. “I’m stuck, Papa. I just can’t forget what he did, can I?” Mack implored. “Forgiveness is not about forgetting, Mack. It is about letting go of another person’s throat.” “But I thought you forget our sins?” “Mack, I am God. I forget nothing. I know everything. So forgetting for me is the choice to limit myself. Son,” Papa’s voice got quiet and Mack looked up at him, directly into his deep brown eyes, “because of Jesus, there is now no law demanding that I bring your sins back to mind. They are gone when it comes to you and me, and they run no interference in our relationship.” “But this man … “ “But he too is my son. I want to redeem him.” “So what then? I just forgive him and everything is okay, and we become buddies?” Mack stated softly but sarcastically. “You don’t have a relationship with this man, at least not yet. Forgiveness does not establish relationship. In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship. Mackenzie, don’t you see that forgiveness is an incredible power–a power you share with us, a power Jesus gives to all whom he indwells so that reconciliation can grow? When Jesus forgave those who nailed him to the cross they were no longer in his debt, nor mine. In my relationship with those men, I will never bring up what they did, or shame them, or embarrass them.” “I don’t think I can do this,” Mack answered softly. “I want you to. Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiven,” answered Papa, “to release you from something that will eat you alive; that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly. Do you think this man cares about the pain and torment you have gone through? If anything, he feeds on that knowledge. Don’t you want to cut that off? And in doing so, you’ll release him from a burden that he carries whether he knows it or not–acknowledges it or not. When you choose to forgive another, you love him well.” “I do not love him.” “Not today, you don’t. But I do, Mack, not for what he’s become, but for the broken child that has been twisted by his pain. I want to help you take on that nature that finds more power in love and forgiveness than hate.” “So, does that mean,” Mack was again a little angry at the direction of this conversation, “that if I forgive this man, then I let him play with Kate, or my first granddaughter?” “Mackenzie,” Papa was strong and firm. “I already told you that forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.” “So forgiveness does not require me to pretend what he did never happened?” “How can you? You forgave your dad last night. Will you ever forget what he did to you?” “I don’t think so.” “But now you can love him in the face of it. His change allows for that. Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation. And sometimes–and this may seem incomprehensible to you right now–that road may even take you to the miracle of fully restored trust.” Mack slid to the ground and leaned back against the rock he had been sitting on. He studied the dirt between his feet, “Papa, I think I understand what you’re saying. But it feels like if I forgive this guy he gets off free. How do I excuse what he did? Is it fair to Missy if I don’t stay angry with him?” “Mackenzie, forgiveness does not excuse anything. Believe me, the last thing this man is, is free. And you have no duty to justice in this. I will handle that. And as for Missy, she has already forgiven him.” “She has?” Mack didn’t even look up. “How could she?” “Because of my presence in her. That’s the only way true forgiveness is ever possible.”
Indeed, Love and Forgiveness go hand-in-hand.