January 10, 2023

Take A Step Beyond Forgiveness

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20

“Every man should keep a fair-sized cemetery in which to bury the faults of his friends,” wrote Harriet Ward Beecher. Most of us, however, never get to the cemetery with those faults. We gunnysack them. We file them away in our memory banks, we store them in the closet; and then when the time is right, we marshal them and use them as weapons and clubs to wreak vengeance upon our enemies.

Take, for example, the young woman who had become engaged. As she was preparing the wedding guest list, she said, “Mom, why is no one from Dad’s side of the family invited?” “I don’t know, dear,” she said, quickly adding. “We’ve had nothing to do with his brother’s side of the family ever since we married.”

That evening she asked, “Dad, why are we not inviting your brother and some of the family on your side to the wedding?” Somewhat pained the dad replied, “We haven’t had any contact with them for years.” “Why not?” she pressed. “Well, something happened and we’ve both gone our own ways.”

While a wedding may not be the time to build bridges because it’s a celebration that needs to be unblemished, there is a time to forgive and a time to go beyond forgiveness – that is restoration.

In Bible days, when there was a feud or a war and the two parties decided to make a treaty and restore the peace, they would get together and make a covenant or an agreement between them. It was called a berith, which, as you might suspect, was a Hebrew word which literally means, “to cut between” something. A sacrifice was divided and the two pieces of meat were put in the fire and roasted, and the ones who had been enemies had a meal together. No longer were they separated; as the symbolism suggested, they were one, partaking of the feast together.

The fact is that going beyond forgiveness is always costly in terms of humility, in terms of relinquishing our hatred and our desire to hurt the one who has hurt us.

I think of restoration as going home after the war, as opening the door to your husband or wife who has wronged you, as allowing the teenage son who disappointed you to eat at your table, forgiven and restored to a place in the family.

During the Korean conflict in the early 50s, a North Korean soldier, actually a teenager who had been impressed into the army and given a gun, in a fit of rage and anger, took another Korean youth and executed him in front of his family. Later the same youth was captured by South Korean soldiers and the mother and father of the boy who had been killed were called upon to identify the young man.

Yes, this was the boy who had held them captive. Yes, it was the boy who had pulled the trigger. But surprisingly the parents pleaded for his life. “He was angry and he didn’t know what he was doing. Let us have the boy and raise him in place of our son.”

A surprised and somewhat befuddled military tribunal gave them their request, and the offending youth was sent home with the parents of the boy who lost his life. Today, almost unbelievably, that person is a Korean pastor. In that home, he found forgiveness and he found God, and God made the difference.

Forgiving is important, very important; but it is restoration that brings great dividends, whether it is one who has wronged you, your husband or wife, your son or daughter, or your parents. Thank God for His grace that allows us to be reconciled to Himself. It is also His grace that enables us to be reconciled, going one step beyond forgiveness.

Resource reading: 2 Corinthians 5: 11-21