From the Lord's Prayer in the Bible comes the phrase, "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." When Peter said, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" Jesus responded, "I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven." From Doctrine and Covenants, scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we read, "I the lord will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men."
Forgiveness is a great healing balm for our souls. It is to remove hate, envy and all desires to inflict revenge against the individual who we believe has wronged us. It is to retain love in our hearts for all mankind, including those who have offended us. It is to free our hearts from the heavy burden of anger, sorrow and emotional pain. Forgiveness does not require that we continue to allow a wrong to be perpetrated against us. Nor does it excuse or condone evil acts. Forgiveness does not require that we fail to protect ourselves from future wrongs that one might continue to inflict upon us.
In Genesis we read about Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was sold as a slave to the Ishmaelites by his jealous brothers. The record states in several places, "And the Lord was with Joseph." Because the Lord was with Joseph, he later became ruler over all the land of Egypt second only to the Pharaoh himself. Following gross injustices and mistreatment, Joseph turned his focus away from contention against those who wronged him. He made no plans to extract revenge from his brothers. Joseph rose above great affliction because he had faith that God would help him and because he kept God's commandments and because he willingly forgave. When Jacob, died Joseph's brothers said, "forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren". Joseph's reply to his brothers was, "Fear not: for am I in the place of God?" and Joseph forgave his brothers in both word and deed.
When we forgive others, it brings us closer to God. It lifts a burden off of our shoulders; it removes a barrier between us and God.
It seems most difficult for many to forgive a close family member, a husband or wife, a brother or sister, son or daughter, mother or father. These relationships are central to our happiness. When we are willing to forgive, we tear down barriers that block the development of fulfilling relationships.
For each of us, life offers an opportunity to experience joy, peace and contentment. These are the fruits of forgiveness. Some of us are asked to forgive one of heinous crime, or of breaking a sacred trust of fidelity. When faced with difficult circumstances of being spat upon, scourged, mocked and nailed to a cross Jesus uttered, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." We have his example to follow. Let us each gather strength and forgive as quickly as possible as the savior did and reap the wonderful blessings that follow those who forgive.
Bishop John Rowley serves the Second Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Walla Walla. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.