If you had to identify the most difficult task you face in your everyday world what would it be? Meeting the demands of a tough and difficult job? Learning to get along with a diverse and perhaps divisive set of co-workers? Finding just the right word for an essay or a public speaking event?
I don't have any hard research to support my answer to that question but a recent sermon has provided plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the hardest thing any of us must do in this life is forgive. Following that sermon a few weeks ago many, many people paused at the door in the back of the sanctuary or came by later in the week to say, more or less: "Learning how to forgive someone is the hardest thing I have ever done."
I'm pretty sure their honest commentary is right on target. Forgiveness gets even more difficult when the one we need to pardon is someone we care for deeply. George Everett Ross, in a sermon on forgiveness remarks, "When forgiveness occurs, a community is assembled. They assemble to celebrate. The neighbors are called in. Surely one of the most terrible consequences of sin is the loneliness of guilt. Forgiveness gives people back their friends and neighbors."
Learning to forgive gives us the opportunity to remember the great gift of God's mercy for all of us and it gives us the chance to remember, that is, reconnect with the human community. When we find ourselves in a forgiving community we discover that our lives are changed, our dreams are reenergized and our hopes are empowered.
Lewis Smedes cuts right to the chase when he writes, "With a little time, and a little more insight, we begin to see both ourselves and our enemies in humbler profiles. We are not really as innocent as we felt when we were first hurt. And we do not usually have a gigantic monster to forgive; we have a weak, needy, and somewhat stupid human being. When you see your enemy and yourself in the weakness and silliness of the humanity you share, you will make the miracle of forgiving a little easier."
Maybe that is why Jesus instructs us to love our enemies. When we find the courage and guts to do that, we may also find the ability to forgive the worst within ourselves.
Grace and Peace to you,