Friday, August 26, 2011

Forgiveness and Wholeness

The readings this week in the Mosaic Bible are on forgiveness. In one of the selections, Bill Senyard writes:
"Think about this. If the victim and the perpetrator are both, by faith, made whole-
imagine the new dynamics between them and with others. The result is a new creation-
a community that looks strangely fearless, vulnerable, and intimate. Of the present fruit
of the passion of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18), I would suggest that this is one of the most
Many Scriptures describe what redeemed relationships could now look like in Jesus
Christ - husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and workers. If each party is
redemptively healed, then relationships take on a radical trajectory - for no one needs to
steal, to use, to abuse. In the end, only forgiven people are free to give to others with

I agree with Senyard that the most neglected, even forgotten, part of forgiveness is reconciliation. We are taught, rightly so, that God forgives us our sins, and therefore God will not punish us. That is true, but I believe that God's forgiveness does more than take away our guilt and punishment. According to 2 Corinthians 5:18, God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. One of the aspects of our forgiveness is reconciliation with God. Our relationship with him is redeemed and we are healed. We are made whole.

Because we are forgiven, we are to forgive others. As Senyard writes, only the forgiven are free to give to others with abandon. An important part of forgiving others is reconciliation. If I am wronged by someone, and I don't seek to be reconciled and see both of us made whole, am I truly forgiving? Am I whole if my relationship with others is not whole? Some who wrong me may have no desire to be reconciled. I believe that I should still go to them and make the attempt. If they do not wish to be made whole, then I have no further responsibility, but I can at least try. In that attempt, I believe healing will take place in my own heart.

Another part of seeking wholeness is making sure that we are blameless in our relationships. Sometimes we are guilty of sinning against others. Either we truly don't know about the offense, or we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we don't recognize what we have done. If my relationship with my wife is strained, and I don't go to her and find out what the problem is and seek forgiveness and reconciliation, can I really say that I love her? By the same token, if my relationship with a brother or sister is strained and I have even an inkling that I may have sinned against them, I am to go to them and do what I can to make it right. If I don't, can I really say that I love them?

Jesus gives both parties in a relationship responsibility to maintain the health of that relationship. In Matthew 5:23-24, he teaches the responsibility of the one who commits an offense. In Matthew 18 Jesus gives us the responsibility of one who has been wronged. In the passage in 2 Corinthians, Paul states that we who have been forgiven and made whole have been given a ministry of reconciling others to God. I believe that part of that ministry is bringing wholeness to our relationships with others, which brings wholeness to us and to them.

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