Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Forgiveness Heals the Heart

Title: Forgiveness heals the heart

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 4 Jan 2010
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Last week, I posted a final reflection for 2009 at my other blog called 'Yapdates'. (Note: this is different from SabbathWalk which is published only once a week.) Over there, I was thinking back on my many varied posts on topics ranging from technology to spirituality, from public matters to things more personal, or simply to write something to go along with what the whole world is doing: “Wishing one and all a Happy New Year!” Then, I decided, that one way to summarize the year is not simply forgetting everything like Auld-Lang-Syne, but to focus on something more constructive. I ask myself:
  • Should I be content with simply forgetting everything like sweeping dust under a carpet?
  • How should I approach the new year? Is it going to be repeating the same old years?
No. My last post for 2009 at Yapdates focuses on forgiveness. I feel that my first post at SabbathWalk ought to be on forgiveness as well. This is because I believe forgiveness heals the hearts. Here is why.......

A World in Need of Healing
In life, because of our fragile human nature, it is only a matter of time before we eventually get hurt one way or another. It could be a careless scratch on the face. It could be a silly word uttered by a close friend. It could be an insensitive remark said over the meeting. It could also be an accidental push by something carrying a dinner tray. Given our human tendencies to get hurt or to hurt, isn't it appropriate for us to find ways for healing as well?

Lest I be accused of extreme pessimism, let me add that with hurts, come the redemptive prospect of healing as well. For physical hurts, we can use various ointments and medication to sooth physical nerves. We see a medical doctor for advice to our external wounds, migraines or anything that is impeding us from our normal activities. For hurts that are less pathological, like mental well-being, one will have to visit a local psychologist, a psychiatrist or even a pastor. Whatever it is, in any holistic treatment, there are many ways to heal the flesh and the mind.   

What about things of the heart? How can one heal a broken heart? In my last 2009 reflection, I chose one of Michael Jackson’s video clip, which was rather symbolic for human relationships. It is not ‘Thriller’ or ‘Billie Jean.’ In fact, it is lesser known compared to these record smashing songs. Entitled, 'Heal the World,' Michael Jackson’s singing versatility drives home the perennial human need: Forgiveness. I like to begin this first SabbathWalk post of 2010 by urging all of us to embark on this pilgrimage of forgiveness, as not merely acts, but as an attitude of peacemaking. Healing the heart begins with an attitude of forgiveness.

[If you have not, you can pause here to watch the video.]

Balm of Healing
I had wanted to use this 'Heal the World' video in one of my earlier sermons. Due to time constraints, I was not able to show it. The music video is a moving music-commentary about what a world of war needs in order to become a land of peace. The video begins with a part documentary on how wars and hatred have devastated many lives, civilians and especially young children. It then progresses to various images of soldiers arming themselves with vicious weapons seemingly saying ‘kill-first-talk-later,’ or ‘do-not-approach.’

Suddenly, a group of delightful little children of various ethnic backgrounds rush out onto the battle-scarred neighbourhood. Oblivious to any danger to themselves, they embrace the soldiers. They play. They jump and laugh with gleeful smiles. One little girl even offered a flower to a soldier. Amid the stern and stoic faces of soldiers carrying arms, in stark contrast, the children wear with them joyous facial expressions of simplicity and a willingness to share their love in peace. While the soldiers hold their firearms to protect themselves, the children stretch their hands to play. Before long, suspicions give in to innocence. Rifles were flung away, with children leading the way. I love the ending, with each child holding up a candle of peace.

Forgiveness Heals the Heart
Is this vision possible? I ask. Of course, I believe God’s ability to do anything. I just doubt man’s ability to let God do what God promised. Forgiveness is most needed by all human communities. Forgiveness is a balm of healing. It is never matched even by the most brilliant surgeons of the world, top neurologists or super emotional healers. It is a simple solution to a complex world of human relationships. Unfortunately, many people still adopt a suspicious shoot-first-ask-later attitude.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col 3:13)
Forgiveness heals the heart, yet I have experienced that it is a rather difficult thing to do.

Why is forgiveness so difficult?
One of the roots of unforgiveness is pride.It is one of most powerful deadly sins that afflict mankind. In pride, we tend to do or say the following:
  • ‘I am right and you are wrong;’
  • ‘I did not do anything, so why are you blaming me?’
  • ‘You did not understand why I am doing this.’
  • ‘It must be your fault, because it is definitely not mine.’
Sometimes I wonder, if anyone of us truly claim innocence? Hear not evil, see no evil, do no evil does not mean we are spared of the temptations to think we are pure. This reminds me of Paul’s words to the Romans. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Each time we claim we have not sinned against our brothers or sisters, and act self-righteously, we dishonour God. Like the example of lusting with our eyes, a careless thought in our minds will have chalked up a few evil points in the book of sin.

Our forgiveness is not dependent on how we feel. It is dependent on God’s forgiving us unconditionally in the first place. If this is the case, should we not consider Christ, even as we relate to one another?

Some guidelines to forgiveness:
  • If Christ forgives us unconditionally, why do we relate to others conditionally?
  • Forgive whatever grievances’ does not have any direction or specifics. ‘Whatever’ means anything. That includes what we know and what we DO NOT know. That includes things we have done and things we have NOT done. 
  • Forgiveness means the act of giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  • Forgiveness means nipping any sense of self-righteousness in us, at the bud;
  • Forgiveness means that love covers a multitude of sins, both yours and mine.
  • Forgiveness means we are inadequate, imperfect and unable to solve human problems on our own strength. 
  • Forgiveness means we need one another, and cannot survive on our own strength.
  • If we claim to be disciples of Christ, should we not follow Christ’s example all the way?

Alain Paton, famous for his novel, `Cry my beloved country,`once said:
``There is a hard law, mejuffro, that when a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive``.`(Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1981, p278)
Forgiveness heals the heart. It can even do more. In the power of the Holy Spirit, an attitude of forgiveness can move us from being healed to become a healer in the making. Let us, in a hurtful world, bring healing to the world. That is our calling. Forgive as Christ forgave you.

Thought: "You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well." (Lewis Smedes, Forgive and Forget, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1984, p29)


Copyright by SabbathWalk 2010. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries.

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