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Collide: Torrey Conference 2014

Gary Friesen on the surprising power of forgiveness

Gary Friesen speaks about the power of forgiveness and how God's grace can help us achieve this. | Melanie Kim/THE CHIMES

 

We forgive because he first forgave us.

When we consider the question of how to respond to conflict, forgiveness is sometimes the last thing on our minds. We often sway away from forgiveness as a solution because it is not easy. Forgiveness sometimes feels like we need to act as if nothing happened or that we have to ignore the issue at hand. Sometimes we feel we are without answers. How should we reconcile and forgive? What does forgiveness mean to us as Christians? Gary Friesen addressed these questions, offering a solution that follows God’s ultimate call to forgive.

Learning to forgive does not happen overnight, and Friesen has experienced this first hand. He explained how he grew up in a Christian home with six children, and when his mother’s health began to decline due to a degenerative mental disorder, his father promised to stay with the family. However, it was not long before his father broke this promise. Friesen’s father later decided to divorce his mother and leave the family to marry another woman. His father left his mother and his siblings with nothing, and now the children essentially lost both of their parents. Friesen’s mother died shortly after.

Where would forgiveness be in this picture? For a long time, Friesen could not bring himself to forgive his father for lying, nor for leaving. Through his own personal journey of learning to forgive his father, Friesen learned the true meaning of God’s forgiveness, and that it is only possible for us to forgive if we fully understand how much God has forgiven us.

RETURNING GOD'S GRACE

Forgiveness does not mean that we excuse the wrong committed against us. Forgiveness does not mean that we forget the wrong entirely. Forgiveness means that we return God’s grace.

In Matthew 18, Jesus describes a parable where a king forgives his servant of an unfathomably immense debt, but instead of letting the same grace flow from his heart, the servant turns around and does not forgive his fellow servant for a small amount of money he owes. This story is all too near to us. Forgiveness feels good if we are the ones being forgiven, but turn it around, and forgiveness feels like a huge sacrifice. We never feel like forgiving.

In order to put this attitude into perspective, we must meditate on God’s purpose for forgiveness. We forgive because he first forgave us. There is no limit to God’s forgiveness, and we can never repay him for washing us clean from sin’s stains. That is the definition of grace. God sets the standard for our forgiveness at his standard of grace. Because he has forgiven us of all our transgressions, who are we to think that we are above forgiving our neighbor? The forgiveness of our sin cost God his only son, so any sacrifice we make in forgiving our neighbor pales in comparison. In light of God’s grace, we are called to give others grace.

EMBRACING FULL FORGIVENESS

Forgiveness is never easy. When we choose to experience pain instead of inflicting deserved pain upon someone who has wronged us it costs us, Friesen says. Forgiving his father felt like accepting the punishment for what his father did to his family, but this forgiveness led to the eventual restoration of their relationship.

Friesen concluded by emphasizing that, as followers of Christ, forgiveness is intended to flow from us. When others see us giving grace instead of holding a grudge, they will see the light of Christ in how we behave in relationships.

What would full forgiveness look like? Full forgiveness only comes from God’s grace. When we understand how much God has forgiven us, it becomes clear that forgiving a wrong is the least we can do to reconcile a relationship.

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