What would you do if your own closest friends with whom you hang out turn back on you? What would you do if your very own rebuked you? What would you do if your own family rejected you? What would you do if your parentage was ridiculed? What would you do if your own countrymen prosecuted you for being who you were? What would you do if you had to die because of other’s misunderstanding of you? You would do just one thing. You would FORGIVE.
We all have faced rejection in your life. But the life of Christ is one of the biggest examples of rejection in history. It was this rejection that prompted Jesus to remark “a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house” – Matthew 13:57. Incidentally these episodes of rejection culminate at the end of Jesus’ mortal life into one of his greatest teaching, the teaching of forgiveness.
Christ proclaimed that without love He was nothing – Corinthians 13:2. Forgiveness is the other side of the coin of Love. Love and forgiveness go hand in hand. The life of Christ shows that the love of God resides in our Being and expresses itself through forgiveness.
Our life is mired by experiences of resentment, episodes of past have the power to stir our present and anger multiplies itself when held in our system. The solution to this chaos which we hold and nurture in our system is forgiveness. Many a times we do not even know that we have the power and capacity to forgive. But the power to forgive is one of the strongest powers we have. This power has the capacity to erase the burden of past. Even Christ aroused the ire of the then religious leaders by openly saying “your sins are forgiven”. Religious dogma had given the power of forgiveness to God alone thus creating generations of slaves, salves who were oppressed by the so called “mediators” of God known as priests. Jesus made people realize that they had this amazing power, the power of forgiveness to make peace with their pasts and not depend on the priests or God to deliver them. This power of forgiveness is not just for forgiving others but also for reconciliation with our selves. We have a habit of holding a lot of self regret and guilt within us which manifest as experiences of self punishment. Remember, we have the power to forgive ourselves too and start anew without the baggage of past.
Jesus Christ’s own life and death was the biggest example of forgiveness. After being rebuked, scourged, ridiculed, spat upon, beaten and cruelly crucified, Jesus still had the capacity and resilience to forgive those who subjected him to such heinous treatment. The immortal words “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” still guide many to work on forgiveness.
Jesus did not preach about forgiveness as an extension of guilt but as a tool of reconciliation and union. He cites a case in Gospel of Matthew asking his disciples to first reconcile the differences with near and dear ones and only then offer their gifts at the altar. Forgiveness heals deep wounds and as we know some deeper wounds need more medication, more patience and more time to heal. Forgiveness is not a one off act but rather a process, a process that takes time to heal deeper wounds of resentment. This is why, when asked by Peter about how often should he forgive, Jesus sternly replies by saying “not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times” – Matthew 18:21.
Forgiveness is empowering not only for oneself but also for other. When you forgive the other the karmic bond binding the two is loosened. Even though realization of the need to forgive is in hands of the other person your actions of forgiving can ease the strained karmic bond. Imagine if you were handcuffed to some other person (karmic bond) and you happen to discover the key (forgiveness) to unlock your end of the handcuff. You use the key and unlock your end. By doing this you are not just setting yourself free but also freeing the other person involved in the bondage. This is how forgiveness is empowering to both the parties. The one who realizes the importance of forgiveness first should start without waiting for the other to forgive.
If you, somewhere in the corner of your mind feel a need to forgive and even ask for forgiveness be brave and do it. Let this Christmas be the start of our reconciliation process with those who we hold grudges against. Let us forgive, forgive lovingly, forgive openly, forgive others and above all forgive ourselves.