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March 6th, 2009

Forgiveness.  Perhaps no other word in the English language expresses an action more important or less understood.  Chapters 15-16 of The Shack offer some vital insights on forgiveness.

Forgiveness is sometimes a hug with no words.  Most of the time, an embrace either presupposes or symbolizes a relationship.  Mack meets his own dad in chapter 15, and their silent embrace is Mack’s way of letting go of all the ways his dad had hurt him as a child.  People are sometimes simply unable to articulate or hear the deepest pains.

“Forgive and forget” is a myth.  For Mack, forgiving the man who murdered his daughter did not mean he wouldn’t remember what happened.  It meant releasing the desire for revenge – “letting go of another person’s throat,” as Papa tells him.

Forgiveness does not imply naïve trust in a relationship.  You can forgive the person who stole your investment but you don’t have to put more money in his account.  (The “Pastor’s Pen” this week in The Corinthian will reflect on the current news story about the Claremont Ponzi scheme.)  The wise motto is still “Trust but verify.”

The greatest benefit in forgiveness comes to the one who forgives.  We usually think when we refuse to forgive, we are punishing the offender.  Quite the opposite is true.  We are punishing ourselves and rewarding the offender – especially if his or her purpose was to hurt.

Understanding and living forgiveness is essential to the life of faith.

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