We are all born into a family not of our choosing and are challenged throughout life to create strong familial bonds with people who would otherwise be strangers. Fully adopting God’s message that we must forgive as Christ has forgiven us is necessary to ensure that these bonds are created and that family ties are unbreakable.
I have a large extended family where estrangement was always in fashion. Any action, from small misunderstandings to larger unspeakable events, could lead to a decades-long cold shoulder. This petty philosophy translated into a loss of family structure, missed opportunities for growth and friendship, and a lack of a strong support network during difficult times.
As a kid, I never understood why I wasn’t allowed to see my favorite great- aunt or hang out with certain cousins. But once I began to process what was happening, I was able to define my approach to forgiveness. There have been many opportunities for me to hold a grudge or write someone off, but at what cost? Were they going to suffer? Was I truly a victim? Without forgiveness I would lose the opportunity to experience what’s next in these relationships, to understand where there can be growth, and to witness who these people were going to become. Without forgiveness, no one learns from their mistakes, no one becomes a better person, and the losses can be profound.
When my great-aunt died, her sisters, who never forgave her for having a bigger house or for having a seemingly happy life, ransacked her estate, dividing up her possessions like spoils from a hard fought battle of estrangement. There was no reconciliation or sadness. I was never able to properly grieve because forgiveness was cast aside. I have consciously taken the opposite approach, choosing instead to follow the teaching of Christ. As a result, my relationships are deeper, my family bonds are strong, and I have grown from each situation where I was challenged to forgive.
Friends and members of our Christ Church family have prepared these daily reflections as a means for you to consider how forgiveness informs your faith walk during this holy season. They are a richly diverse group from many different geographies around our nation and globe, formed by a wide variety of traditions.