“Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Sadly, even for believers, forgiveness is a touchy topic when it comes to race. It seems that the act is almost impossible in cases of systemic and historic injustice. Because the acts of oppressive and unequal treatment have occurred for such a long period of time, it can be difficult to discern where to begin. Should we forgive for historic wrongdoing or just our present failings? It also proves difficult if such acts have seemingly had no ending though taking on new forms and appearances; if the relationship still maintains the positions and mindset of an oppressive past; if the persons involved have talked about it only for the purposes of legislation but not for reestablishing of a healthy relationship. And persons, such as myself, who would suggest an attempt at it are given looks to suggest that we do not understand what we are asking. Their eyes say, “Do you know what has been done? Do you know how many times this has happened? You can’t really be serious about forgiveness.”
But, I am and I always will be because God wants us to live whole lives. Race suggests that we will always hurt each other, that things will always be this way, which makes forgiveness much less reconciliation seem impossible. We are then always wounded and unable to be healed… if only until the next instance of offense. But, do we not proclaim that we “can do all things through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4.13), that “nothing is too hard for God” (Jeremiah 32.17), that God can do anything but fail? I often heard it said that we forgive not for the person who has offended us but for ourselves. It is a truth that is probably rooted in Colossians 3.13. It is a reminder of the need to remain humble, recognizing the grace and mercy that is operative in our lives; that we are all equally in need of forgiveness and that God forgave and continues to forgive all of us.
We must forgive anyone who offends us. We must make an allowance for it. Forgiveness is not reserved solely for spouses, children, parents, family or church members. If our question is, “How can we forgive?” then, it suggests that we must do it in our own strength and perhaps, it can only be done when we feel that we are able to. If our question is, “Why should we forgive?” then, we are really asking whether or not the person is deserving of our forgiveness. Peter asked, “How often should we forgive? This question suggests that perhaps there is a limit, a cut off point wherein we won’t have to forgive. But, we will need to because we are always being forgiven. Our ability to forgive is rooted in God’s ability to forgive.
Race will not allow us to reconcile with one another. Only God’s love, demonstrated in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins can do that. Though it may not be the case in matters of race, forgiveness is of God.