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Act of Forgiveness Teaches Empathy and Love

A photographer captures the loving innocence of two children hugging each other
A photographer captures the loving innocence of two children hugging each other

Luke 15:11-32 is a powerful, and well known parable, that Jesus tells his disciples. Known as The Prodigal and His Brother, the short parable explains a great deal about human forgiveness, in the beginning of the story, while highlighting a then modern-day situation.

“Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later, the younger son gathered all that he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout the country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe – the best one – and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.’” Luke 15:11-24.

Forgiving someone for what they have done in the past, or against someone, is not just a random act of kindness, but it is essential for us to do.

Picture this, if you are currently an adult, imagine that you are 20 years old again. You are back in college, and enjoying some quality time with your best friend, whom you trust and care about a great deal. You are both eating lunch at a local restaurant together, and you tell your best friend that you want to share a secret, and you trust that he or she won’t tell anyone it. Your friend agrees and so you share the secret.

The next day, you walk out of your dorm room and walk to your class. As soon as you enter the room, laughter and mockery is heard from several students in the classroom. You look towards your best friend who sits in the back of the room with a guilty look on his or her face.

The secret is out.

You know your best friend has explaining to do, and at first you think that you should just walk up to him or her and start screaming angry comments. But you don’t. You do the very opposite.

Ignoring the mockery and laughter, you walk up to your friend and sit down in front of him or her asking for an explanation.

As it turns out, the secret was told accidentally to a group of guys who were at the same restaurant as you and your friend, and who wanted to know more about the secret that they overheard you and your friend talk about. Your friend blurted out the secret in an attempt to make the guys stop bothering him or her.

Your best friend ends the explanation saying “I’m so sorry” over and over expecting some backlash from you. But all that you do is hold up your hand to stop your friend from talking.

“It’s okay,” you say, “I forgive you.” Your friend stares at you for a second and then smiles. The dilemma is over.

This is a reasonable explanation for secret blabbing. But even if it wasn't, wouldn't arguments, fights, and misunderstandings be so much easier to handle if they just ended right away with “I’m sorry” from one person and “I forgive you” from the other?

Saying “I’m sorry” is just the first step in mending something that has gone wrong. We must repent before we can forgive.

Forgiveness can be very hard to do sometimes. If that situation of friendship betrayal has happened to you, or someone that you know, one can only guess at how tough forgiving someone can be.

The old saying “forgive and forget” can also be hard. Sometimes so-called friends can do a lot worse than just blabbing a simple secret. Sometimes people can be downright cruel and really stab us in the back sometimes.

Or maybe it’s not a friendship situation, but rather a family issue.

Nevertheless, forgetting the things that people have done to you that you have forgiven them for can be even tougher. If the situation is really bad, sometimes moving on can be really hard to do, and this is why when we forgive someone, we must fully forgive that person so that we are able to move on.

God will always forgive us when we sin against him, but we must repent our sins.

Psalm 130 is a wonderful and short psalm that talks about God’s forgiveness.

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered…O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities,” Psalm 130; 3-4; 7-8.

God will forgive our sins no matter what we do if we ask him to, therefore, we must act the same way in Christ-like love and forgive the sins of others that do us wrong.

The Lord our God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to die for us so that we would have eternal life in Heaven and that our sins would be forgiven. We should always respond to others in the same love that God has for us, which includes forgiving others when they do us wrong.

A Pastor that I once knew told me that she believed the definition of a human being was “a screw up,” and she is right. We all mess up sometimes. We all sin, and that is why we should always repent the things that we have done wrong not just to the people that we have done wrong to, but to God as well. While our friends and family might not always forgive us for certain things, God always will no matter what, all we have to do is ask.

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